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Why Collective Licensing Matters

We’ve written a lot here about why a flat-fee system that legalizes filesharing (collective licensing) would be best for musicians and fans. If you haven’t heard these kinds of proposals before, take a look at some of the articles we link to on the left side. But more than the practical reasons why collective licensing is the best way forward, there is an even greater argument to be made for the overwhelming public good that open sharing creates. It’s just a better world to live in for music fans, educators, and creators.

Here’s an excerpt from a speech that David Weinberger gave at the World Economic Forum in NYC last week, where he makes that case. (via Boing)

[F]or one moment, I’d like you to perform an exercise in selective attention. Forget every other consideration — even though they’re fair and important considerations — and see if you can acknowledge that a world in which everyone has free access to every work of creativity in the world is a better world. Imagine your children could listen to any song ever created anywhere. What a blessing that would be!

…We publish stuff that gets its meaning and its reality by being read, viewed or heard. An unpublished novel is about as meaningful and real as an imaginary novel. It needs its readers to be. But readers aren’t passive consumers. We reimagine the book, we complete the vision of the book. Readers appropriate works, make them their own. Listeners and viewers, too. In making a work public, artists enter into partnership with their audience. The work succeeds insofar as the audience makes it their own, takes it up, understands it within their own unpredictable circumstances. It leaves the artist’s hands and enters our lives. And that’s not a betrayal of the work. That’s its success. It succeeds insofar as we hum it, quote it, appropriate it so thoroughly that we no longer remember where the phrase came from.

This would all be just a nice dream if this kind of sharing was impossible or if open access meant that the incentive to create was destroyed. But that’s not the case at all. The internet makes sharing simple, as we all know, and a collective licensing system can do the same thing that Nielsen ratings do for TV and SoundExchange does for web radio: reward creators when people watch or listen to their work without restricting users. More on how it could work.

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