the consumer always pays

I don’t get much mail, except when I post something negative about organic produce or suggest that people who live in the suburbs aren’t evil. But a column I wrote a few weeks about how to end the ccopyright wars (via a ISP levy) annoyed a lot of people. I got yelled at by the left, who accused me of being a friend to Big Copyright and trying to support an obsolete business model. I also got yelled at by the right, who wondered why I was in favour of such bureaucratic and government-based solutions when a better solution — the status quo, defined as “Capitalism” — was doing just fine.

Anyway, here’s the deal: One way or another, you are going to be buying your music (and eventually all content0 through a subscription model. The free-download regime is doomed, as is the 99-cent iTunes model. I like the ISP levy, I think it is clearly the most efficient model on offer. But I’m not wedded to it. In fact, the industry already seems to be reacting and sorting itself out:

Apple is in discussions with the big music companies about a radical new business model that would give customers unlimited access to its entire iTunes music library in exchange for paying a premium for its iPod and iPhone devices.

The “all you can eat” model, a replica of Nokia’s “comes with music” deal with Universal Music last December, could provide the struggling recorded music industry with a much-needed fillip, and drive demand for a new generation of Apple’s hardware.

So what is this? It’s the levy model, transferred from the ISP to the device. It’s basically the difference between paying for roads using tolls or taxing gasoline. Doesn’t matter one way or another. Subscription is the future.

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