The more I think about this, the more this infuriates me.
It was recently announced that Microsoft will be paying Universal Music a flat fee for every Zune music player sold. There seems to be some disagreement on how much they are paying, but the general understanding is that it is $1.00 per Zune player. This is irregardless of whether or not any Universal Music owned music is actually on the player! Universal Music's CEO Doug Morris had this to say: We feel that there’s a great deal of music that’s [stored] on these devices that was never legitimately obtained. We wanted to get some sort of compensation for what we thought we’re losing. In other words, they seem to think that just because some Zunes might have illegal copies of their songs on them that everyone should pay for it! Where the hell do they get off thinking that their music is the only thing on Zunes and that if the music is on the Zunes it must be pirated? Surely they must be thinking that the only things that could go on Zunes (or iPods for that matter) is illegally copied music. Let's refute that theory, shall we?
Sources of Legal content on a Zune or other music player.
- CDs. I have a large CD collection. All of which I actually bought. There's lots of legal music that could be copied onto a music player.
- Independent Music. There are many places on the Internet, such as at Music.Podshow.com where you can get lots of free music from independent artists.
- Podcasts. Podcasts are freely available, recorded 'radio' programs that anyone can download and listen to for free. These are not produced by any particular artist or big name music company. They are produced by individuals. In fact, many of these podcasts can run hours long or contain video. Both things can take up a lot of space on a music player. In fact, many of these are licensed using the Creative Commons license. This license encourages copying of content. This is perfectly legal.
- Emusic. Emusic.com is another source of music, from independent artists, not represented by Universal.
- Myspace. Myspace.com has a huge number of independent artists who posts their music for people to listen to.
This belief that 'everyone' is pirating our music so we must be compensated for it is absurd. Even if that were true, how would you measure these things? One person could have one Universal song on their player, another person could have thousands. Does this mean that the 1 song pirate is paying more per song than the thousand song pirate? It doesn't make any sense. And if everyone is pirating Universal's music, then by that logic, everyone must be pirating music from every other music publisher out there, from the biggest, to the smallest publisher. Why don't we pay a $1.00 fee to every other music company out there to compensate them too for their assumed pirated music? Surely there must be more than 250 different companies publishing music, be it a large company or a small company. If we had to pay this tax to every company, then this could easily double or triple the price of the average music player. Who's going to pay $500 for a $79 iPod Shuffle, just because it might have pirated music? These fees would destroy the very market that is providing these companies with profit! This could easily spiral out of control. And how would the profits from this tax be distributed to the artists? Surely certain popular artists would be pirated more than certain less known pirates. But how would you determine this? How can you justify the payment to any artists, no matter how much or how little it is, if you have no idea how much profit is 'lost' in this piracy?
This 'Music Player Tax' sets a very dangerous precedence. If Universal can get away with this with the Zune, what's to stop all the other companies from demanding this of Microsoft and from Apple for the iPod? This could destroy the music player market as we know it.