Aaron Swartz, self-important boy-genius that he is, does occasionally have clever things to say....

posted 31 July 2003
Aaron Swartz, self-important boy-genius that he is, does occasionally have clever things to say. Today he's talking about compulsory licensing as a way of legalizing free music downloads: the idea is that everybody pays a tax on DVD burners etc., and in return they can download what they like for free. As Aaron's analysis points out, this doesn't actually work properly. So why am I mentioning it? Because people are actually considering this as a possibility, so it's good for people to know why it's a bad idea.

Of course, the solution to ending the piracy of music online is to make it easier to buy songs than to steal them. Currently, if I want to buy music I have to either own a Mac or find myself forced to use Microsoft products that don't let me burn that music onto CD and have a number of other onerous restrictions. If I want to steal the music, however, I'm usually three clicks away, although the quality is variable and obscure and/or very new stuff is hard to find. I would gladly pay a small sum per song to have the quality and availability guaranteed, but that sum is a lot smaller than what the RIAA would like me to pay, because the RIAA is a useless middleman organization that is ripping off the consumer. But more on that another time.

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