In the U.S., there's been talk of trying to solve the problem by having ISPs collect some sort of music fee from subscribers that would go to the record labels. Warner Music Group, for one, is floating that idea. So are some digital rights advocates who view a surcharge -- which they would prefer be voluntary -- as preferable to the industry's current strategy of litigating against anyone unlucky enough to catch their investigators' attention.
The idea hasn't gotten very far in the U.S., but the U.K. paper The Register reports that the record industry and ISPs across the pond will come together and launch a subscription-based peer-to-peer music service.
Details are vague, but the paper reports that a service will go live by the end of this year or the beginning of 2009. The Register also says that the users will have to sign up for the service -- meaning that a mandatory music surcharge service is unlikely.
If this is true, it certainly seems like a better plan than the existing litigation strategy, which clearly hasn't helped the situation. If anything, it's made it worse. The RIAA has diverted time, money and energy to a prosecutorial campaign that hasn't made a dent in piracy when it could have been trying to come up with some new business models.
On that front, just this week, a federal judge in Oregon has awarded exonerated RIAA defendant Tanya Andersen $108,000 in attorneys' fees -- less than the $300,000 she requested, but significantly higher than the $30,000 the RIAA proposed. A magistrate had previously ruled that the RIAA should pay her $108,000, but the record labels opposed that order.
The RIAA is still facing a class-action lawsuit filed by Andersen, accusing it of engaging in "sham" litigation. She says that thousands of other people, like herself, have been wrongly targeted. In the last five years, the record labels have threatened an estimated 26,000 individuals with copyright infringement lawsuits. Many of those have paid settlements of between $3,000 and $5,000 rather than risk crippling verdicts in court.