Warner Music is almost there

Numerama reports that Warner Music Group proposes to put in place a form of blanket licensing for music sharing in the US. This time, it is for good: there are limits to the scheme, but the proposal is a true revolution for the music industry. Thus, comments must be constructive and aiming at bringing the WMG proposal to a stage where it an be implemented, generalized and bringing all the possible benefits for creativity and cultural diversity.

Let’s first recall what are the main characteristics of WMG’s proposal presented by its strategist Jim Griffin: it is a blanket licensing to universities (and only them) in exchange for the payment of a fee per student (“all or none”). The license does not give usage rights to students but only a covenant not to sue them for access and sharing usage. WMG wants all catalogs included, including the independents. Distribution would be on the basis of measures by universities (using a variety of possible mechanisms, apparently open to experimental ones along the line of those I suggest to use in the chapter 9 of Internet & Creation). It would be transmitted to a non-for-profit organization where right holders would be represented, including the independents.

WMG also states:

We are open-minded as regards our non-commercial voluntary blanket license solution, for which we’re assembling all rights (sound recording and publishing) from all four big music companies and the independents

This opening must be praised. WMG states that its offer is already supported by EFF and Public Knowledge. Without further ado, I suggest a few adaptations to the proposal:

  • Distribution is fine, but to whom? Right holders or artists? At least, there should be some minimum standard of artist remuneration put in place, and this standard should be a significant share of the total: after all, artists do the creative work and students and universities will do the distribution work. So publishers should only get for what they do.
  • Clarify that works that are voluntary shared, for instance under CC licenses, will also benefit from the redistribution. More generally open the mechanism to all works under the principle of extended collective licenses.
  • Why just universities and students? It is evident that such a mechanism wil extend to all publics as soon as it exists (the contrary would be discriminatory).
  • Why just music, the benefit of the approach will be much greater if it includes other media. But if one wants to start experimenting with just music, why not, as long as compulsory DRM and compulsory filtering are banned overall from the start. Warner is clearly open to this : “Our approach leads other media and makes music the canary in the mine — music sets a precedent that video, text, graphics and others can and will follow“.
  • Why not take the occasion to put in place better funding schemes for future works?

This post is also available in: French

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