DCIA: Flat Fee For File-Sharing

Tina Reilly
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With the onslaught of lawsuits coming down the pipeline from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), including 41 suits filed earlier this week, Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA) is calling for a simpler and less expensive solution to dealing with copyright infringement.

DCIA is a technology trade group that claims to have membership representation from all sectors of the distributed computing industry, among them Sharman Networks Limited, the maker of Kazaa peer-to-peer software. DCIA considers the elimination of piracy its number one priority.

DDCIA issued a statement Thursday urging the RIAA to charge a flat rate fee to file-sharers who trade music across peer-to-peer (P2P) networks to compensate musicians and record labels whose songs they download.

DCIA developed its proposal through discussions with the RIAA and various Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in an attempt to bridge the gap between file-sharers and the entertainment industry's penchant for using expensive litigation as a solution to the looming question of how to adapt its business model to fit the Internet age.

The RIAA has also been in prolonged litigation against certain ISPs for refusing to cooperate with its pursuit of file-sharers.

According to Reuters, the technology trade group is suggesting that P2P users pay a flat monthly fee to the networks or ISPs, which would then be divided up among the record labels and musicians whose songs are downloaded illegally.

"It's truly a band-aid to get it started," Marty Lafferty, DCIA's chief executive officer, told Reuters. "We present this business model as an opening salvo, recognizing that now is the time for bold and ambitious thinking. We intend to bring forth several such models in the next few months and share them with key stakeholders. We seek positive solutions to minimize copyright infringement while capitalizing on thriving consumer demand."

The RIAA has not issued a response to DCIA's proposal and is so far sticking to the party line that file-sharers have gutted its bottom line and P2P networks must take responsibility for the amount of copyright infringement that occurs among file-sharers.

Additionally, the language between P2P's and congress grew tenser this week after U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham sent a letter calling on file-sharing networks to obey copyright laws and cease the distribution of pornography, especially child pornography, over their networks.

The Graham letter was co-signed by Republican and Democrat Senators Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Gordon Smith, Dick Durbin, and John Cornyn and strongly urged P2Ps to take a more active role in controlling content.

Trade group P2P United, which represents executives from Grokster, Morpheus, Bearshare, Blubster, eDonkey2000, LimeWire, and Streamcast Networks, although not Kazaa, responded to the letter by calling congressional representatives "misinformed" and accusing them of using the same tactics as the music and movie industries to cast a negative public view of P2Ps in hopes of running them all out of business.

P2P United members also reminded those senators that many P2Ps have taken concerted steps to stop illegal file-sharing.

Kazaa, in its own approach to addressing the issue, launched a $1 million advertising campaign last week aimed at getting its 60 million users to voice their media needs to the RIAA and the rest of the entertainment industry.

Kazaa's ad campaign is similar to P2P United's effort to change the public's perception that file-sharing networks foster piracy, although it is also an effort to spur the RIAA into penning content licensing deals with Kazaa. But so far, the RIAA isn't budging.

"Until the larger industry accepts the recommendations recently outlined by six respected U.S. senators, there will continue to be questions about how seriously they want to become legitimate," RIAA spokeswoman Amy Weiss told Reuters.