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Report: Music downloads on your Net access tab?

Jim Griffin, a new Warner Music Group exec, says he hopes a monthly fee tacked onto Internet service bills will enable unlimited music downloads and curb piracy.

Hotels tack extra charges onto your bill when you raid the minibar--or if they're really mean, when you steal towels. If a new Warner Music Group executive gets his way, your Internet service provider will be billing you each month for music downloads.

Jim Griffin, Warner's latest top-shelf hire and the former head of Geffen Music, told the details of a radical new strategy to deal with the record industry's 21st-century crisis. According to Griffin's plan, to which he said Warner Music is "totally committed," a monthly fee added to an Internet service bill--say, five bucks--could give consumers unlimited access to music that they could download, copy, and share.

He estimated that this could provide as much $20 billion per year to reimburse artists and copyright holders.

Griffin did not make it clear whether this would be an opt-in service, or whether customers of an Internet service provider would ideally all be charged even if they don't plan to download music. But, he said, he hopes that it would be much bigger than Warner, with the project eventually spun into its own company.

Recent weeks have seen a number of media and technology companies toying with the idea of unlimited-access plans as they grapple with the reality that iTunes and its ilk haven't stopped rampant music piracy. And legal efforts to curtail pirated downloads often proceed at a snail's pace--it took nearly two years and immense legal pressure before BitTorrent finally shut down the TorrentSpy search engine earlier this week.