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Music Industry Turns To Racketeering 13 March 2002 Edition
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You have to feel sorry for the Music Industry don't you?

In this digital age where illegally ripped MP3s flow like water across the vast expanse of the Internet and even a nine-year-old can copy their favourite album for a friend using nothing more than a desktop PC, the future must look awfully gloomy.

Even attempts to introduce copy-protection has met with massive consumer resistance and forced (at least in the UK) some rapid back-tracking.

However, we should not forget that the Music Industry is a massive and extremely wealthy sector of the economy with huge political lobbying power.

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As a result of this massive sway with governments, we're starting to see a very worrying trend appearing in some countries -- and the word "racketeering" springs to mind.

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Don't ask me how they've done it, but the Music Industry appears to be doing a damned fine job of convincing various governments that it should be propped up by way of taxing computer users.

The justification for these taxes is that modern computers are being used as tools of piracy, therefore it's only reasonable that the losses suffered through this piracy be clawed back by adding a surcharge to the systems and media involved.

It started about 18 months ago when Germany passed a law that effectively slapped a tax of about (NZ$15) on each new CD Writer HP sold there, with that money allegedly being passed on to those copyright holders whose works were being pirated.

Now the racketeering looks set to spread to Canada where it has been proposed that a blank media tax be levied on recordable CDs, DVDs, and memory cards.

These moves are worrying for several reasons:

Firstly, they assume that *everyone* with a CDR or CDRW drive is a music pirate and as far as I'm concerned, that's an incredibly wild accusation for a government to make against its citizens.

Secondly, just what kind of dealings are going on behind the scenes that gives the Music Industry so much influence with legislators?

Thirdly, how long before the Music Industry sets its sites on lobbying for a tax on Internet access to offset the losses allegedly experienced as a result of piracy through P2P file-trading networks?

However, it's not all bad news -- after all, I'm pretty sure that if the proposed Canadian media tax were to be passed into law then anyone caught burning pirated music onto a CD could argue that they've already paid for the privilege when they bought the blank disk.

Maybe, if they're not careful, the Music Industry will be hoist by its own petard.

The Next Big Thing?
I had an interesting email from a reader the other day who quite rightly pointed out that the next "big thing" might well be a replacement for email that frees us from the ever-increasing burden of spam.

At one stage it looked as if instant messaging (IM) services such as ICQ would all but replace email and provide a measure of protection against unsolicited commercial email -- but, alas, the spammers are now taking full advantage of IM to flog everything from weight-loss pills to illegal pyramid schemes.

The other problem with email and IM is that it exposes our computers to all manner of risks by way of cunningly crafted messages and attachments that exploit any number of bugs and security holes in popular email software.

What we need is a solution that has all the benefits of email but few of the drawbacks. Whoever comes up with such a system will find themselves with some very hot property -- just like the guys at Mirabilis did when ICQ took off and they sold the thing to AOL for about NZ$1.2 billion in cash.

Do you have any ideas as to how this can be done -- I know I do ;-)

Have your say.

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