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Recording Industry Proposes Taxing Students Instead of Suing Them

Here’s a new way for colleges to skirt takedown notices and lawsuits for students’ alleged piracy: charge all of them a flat rate and cede the levy to the music industry.

Warner Music Group is in talks with several universities about this experiment in “voluntary blanket licensing,” said a post last week on the blog Techdirt. Colleges would collect the money, and the recording industry, through a nonprofit organization, would distribute it to artists, according to a slideshow presentation embedded in the Techdirt post.

The blanket license, the presentation says, is similar to current models for radio and television. But all universities and Internet service providers would have to sign on, it says, for the plan to work. Techdirt didn’t like the sound of that.

“So, basically, it’s not voluntary at all,” the blog said. “It’s either join, or get saddled with significant limitations. In other words: all ISPs and universities need to agree to pay a huge tax to the very industry that hasn’t been able to adapt, and then trust them to distribute the funds fairly.”

Warner Music rushed to defend the experiment. “Efforts to prematurely label or criticize the process only hinder achievement of constructive solutions,” Jim Griffin, the company’s blanket-license proponent, wrote to Techdirt. “This is exactly the type of solution that several universities and their associations have been asking for.” —Sara Lipka

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