Has the Isle of Man solved the problem of the illegal music download?

The Isle of Man

In the past, hearing a government official from the Isle of Man say “We are not going to stop piracy, so let’s embrace it” would be very strange. But the self-governing island in the Irish Sea is not encouraging the lawless ways of some band of Jack Sparrow types. Well, not quite.

What the principality is proposing is legalizing the unlimited download of music, by making the internet service providers (ISPs) pay a ‘nominal’ compulsory tax.

This idea is not new. At a music conference in 2007 I heard former Pink Floyd manager Peter Jenner propose this very model as the only viable way of making music profitable in the 21st century.

It makes a lot of sense. Young downloaders are now so accustomed to getting their music for free – remember the stats involved in Radiohead’s In Rainbows stunt? – that the only way to ensure artists and labels get their slice of the pie is to charge a negligible, inescapable fee at the ISP sign-up stage.

The witch hunts don’t work. The internet is open, and to criminalize a whole generation is absurd. And although much-hyped free streaming services like Spotify and Last FM are all very well if you’re sat at your computer all day, we still value ownership, and the ability to take music with us on our MP3 players.

Apple won’t like it, but the ISP charge model is the only solution. Who would have thought it would take the Isle of Man to lead the way?

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