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Collecting Coins out of the Celestial Jukebox

Alternative Compensation Systems, or ACS, is an idea that has been gaining a foothold in the academic and legal community in the past few years. The basic theory involves the creation of a pool of money collected through consumer-end taxes or fees on peer-to-peer enabling services.

This pooled money would be distributed to copyright holders and creators based on popularity of songs traded on peer-to-peer networks such as KaZaa and Bearshare, where music is already being traded freely. The legal authority to distribute songs would be achieved through the creation of a compulsory license. Other papers propose that participation in the system would be voluntary and would, hypothetically, shield participants - both the P2P network and the consumer - from copyright infringement lawsuits. The papers written on this topic to date each address these facets in a variety of ways, from the collection of money (should it be a consumer end tax? part of your DSL or cable bill? a pseudo-subscription fee collected by the P2P network providers?), to the measurement of songs shared (survey versus census?), to the licensing arrangements (compulsory license? voluntary participation?). The Future of Music Coalition's primary concern lies at the end of the process - the distribution of revenues to creators and copyright holders. Kristin outlines some of the challenges associated with the creation of a reliable and accurate system under which artists would be paid, especially the comparison of proposals against existing revenue distribution models. She also discusses the impact of commercial digital services such as iTunes and Real's Rhapsody from the musician/indie label perspective.

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