My Down-Loading Solution

Jerry Lucky Commentary July 2009

Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2009 All Rights Reserved


I’ve compared the file-sharing, illegal downloading problem to opening a Pandora’s Box. In Greek mythology the story of

Pandora’s Box is such that Pandora’s curiosity drove her to open the jar given to her by Zeus and in so doing she let out all of the

evils upon the earth. It is said that at the bottom of the jar lay ‘hope.’ And so it is with our down-loading dilemma. I believe there is some

hope at the bottom of the jar. Let me explain.


I recently read an interesting comment from someone in England responding to the criticism of downloading a movie or some TV show. And I think his comment is one that is subconsciously shared by many. He responded by saying, why should he be concerned about doing something ‘supposedly’ illegal when in a few months he’d be able to watch that same movie or TV show on some channel for free on the TV anyway?


For some it’s that simple. It gets more complicated when we have artists themselves who freely encourage individuals to download samples of their work in an effort to expose their music to a wider audience than any record company feels the need to do. Truth is artists are way ahead of the curve when it comes to using the power of the internet than the major labels. Way ahead! The majors are still struggling with how they can make their presence known on the great world-wide-web but in a way that they don’t lose control. Regardless of what you hear the record companies or publishers tell you about how it’s illegal or unfair or hurting the artist, suing down loaders is all about them trying to regain control.


Let’s step back for a minute because this isn’t a new problem, it first came to light with the advent of cassette tapes. There was a hewn outcry when blank tapes were first introduced about how it was going to destroy the music scene. Well the scene is still actually very healthy, but the business side of music has been struggling ever since. Then the pace of technology took a giant leap forward and we went from ‘mix-tapes’ to burning CD’s to file-sharing. And somewhere along the line we forgot about the music business side of things. The cry, spoken or not was “screw the man”, the ‘man’ in this case were the profit seeking major record labels. The advent of new technology allowed everyone easier access to music and greater participation in the act of downloading all combined with one very important element, the belief of anonymity. A feeling a safeness, no one will know. Well, we found out that the anonymity part can come back to haunt you as record companies started to sue their customers. Instead of developing systems that stayed ahead of the changing distribution systems they buried their heads in sand and chose litigation. Remember it’s all about retaining control.


Getting back to those ‘mix-tapes,’ whether we know it or not…we’ve all been taxed for every cassette we purchased…every recordable disc…we all thought this taxed money was supposed to go to the artists as compensation. Interestingly, I read recently where the publishing bodies freely admitted that in fact that money didn’t go anywhere but into the coffers of the publishing rights organizations. If that’s true, that’s a separate crime that artists should be rightly disturbed about.


But I want to make this perfectly clear, what we don’t need are musical bureaucracies simply feathering their own nests while shouting foul about money they are failing to collect. There may be a serious disingenuous argument here if in fact this is what’s going on. The artists don’t need to be getting screwed from both sides.


So what about my solution? Well suing down loaders isn’t going to make anyone happy and shutting down websites is good until they pop again somewhere else and it’s time consuming, plus you have to find them first. I believe it’s time to accept the obvious, and difficult as it may be for some to accept it, downloading is here to stay. You remember that story about the boy with his finger in the dyke? Hate to break it to you; everything we’re currently doing ain’t going to fix the problem. The real question is this: how do we capture the lost revenue?


To get at the heart of the issue I firmly believe we need to go to the point of origin…and that would be the ISPs. The internet service providers should be charging a royalty fee (just like we pay for CDs etc.) that would by law go to the artists. Every month we should collect a fee from everyone on the internet. Everyone would be free to download if they choose or not; but we could get rid of the threat of lawsuits and the guilt.


If this were to be done, we might just be able to create a workable mechanism for true artist reimbursement. Currently I read an artist like Weird Al gets about 15 cents for every CD song sold and yet only gets about 11 cents for every downloaded song. There is only one place where this kind of math works and that’s in the board room of record companies and iTunes. Only in the corporate world is it justified that they can make more than the artist. That’s crap!


The new tax (yeah let’s call it what it is) must be set up to go directly to the artist. Unlike with the sale of cassettes and CDRs we can track this activity and we can know EXACTLY what’s being downloaded and where and to who. A similar system is already in place for radio stations where the music played is tracked by computer and royalties are paid to the artist. But there should be strict safeguards put in place to ensure the publishing companies (if they have to be involved) are in fact providing all the revenue to the artists.


Not everyone will like my solution. Some will say, “I don’t download so why do I have to pay?” and that’s a fair question. I guess in some senses my solution speaks to the changing nature of distribution. Many of us don’t download…yet. But in the not-to-distant future there is a very good chance we all will be as items become increasingly available on-line and as brick-and-mortar shops change their method of doing business. So my solution is one that looks to the future, but starts to solve the problem now.


At least that’s what I think.

Jerry Lucky