UK music industry pines for the good old days, seeks an iPod tax

The UK music industry's trade group is a few billion years behind the times. It's trying to tax the use of an iPod to listen to one's music. Here's why the law it's backing deserves to die.

If one ever had to come up with an award for "Clueless Industry of the Millennium," the music industry would win by a landslide. What with the US' RIAA suing homeless people and now the UK's Music Business Group attempting to tax iPods, it's shocking that these jokers get paid at all. It's like Cirque de Soleil. Without the Soleil.

The MBG, conveniently overlooking decades of vinyl-to-cassette personal copying, declares:

We acknowledge that consumers clearly want to format shift and also place enormous value on the transferability of music. Music fans clearly deserve legal clarity in this area as well as the freedom to enjoy any music they have legitimately obtained.

But it is not only music lovers who benefit here. Enormous value is derived by those technology companies and manufacturers who enable consumers to copy. UK creators and rights owners are legally entitled to share in this value - as they hold the exclusive right to reproduce their music - but are currently excluded from the value chain.

So let's get this straight. The music industry grants - or at least implies a grant - of rights to consumers who want to copy songs from their computer to their iPod. But it get surly that someone is making portable music players to afford consumers that right?

I don't get it, other than the music industry has clearly missed out on the digital revolution and now wants to find a way to tax its way back in. Note to the industry: You screwed up. You will be made to pay for your myopia for many years to come.

Now, I'm not against music distribution companies getting paid for their work. I've even suggested that a decent way to compensate artists for rampant piracy is through an ISP-based surcharge. Call it the Download Tax.

But that's different from what the UK's music industry is demanding. I happily pay Apple every time I download a song from iTunes. EMI and crew get a piece of that $.99 fee to cover their costs of discovering and marketing artists.

What I'm not going to pay is for the right to move that song to my computer, or to my phone, or wherever, just as I never had to pay to move a song from vinyl to cassette tape. The music industry incurs no cost in that transfer, and offers me no help in facilitating it. Why should it get paid for that transfer?

If the music industry envies the profits of Apple and other portable-music device makers, become one. Buy one. But don't whine that the music ecosystem has grown beyond a few oligarchies.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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