It’s time to end compulsory licensing for digital music

by on March 8, 2013 · 4 comments

Last week, Pandora CEO Tim Westergren was at the Heritage Foundation, “trying to rally the conservative troops,” according to Politico. The company is pushing the Internet Radio Fairness Act, which would let government bureaucrats set the rates for the music it uses one way. Arguing for another (more expensive) way on Wednesday, was RIAA president Cary Sherman who, again according to Politico, was “ranting against the Internet Radio Fairness Act and condemning Pandora for its efforts to change the standard royalty rate.”

Essentially, they are negotiating through Congress; each side wanting to use the government to gore the other’s ox. In a new article at, I make the case that the principled free market approach would be to get rid of compulsory licenses and allow the two sides to negotiate with each other. As I point out, this is yet another opportunity for the G.O.P. to take on copyright cronyism:

If a federal policy strips owners of their rights to dispose of their property as they see fit, institutes price-fixing by unelected bureaucrats, and in the process picks an industry’s winners and losers, you’d expect Republicans in Congress to be against it. But when it comes to copyright, all bets are off. …

If Republicans really care about copyright as a property right, they should treat it as property and allow copyright holders to decide to whom they will license their music. That would mean prices negotiated in a free market, not fixed by apparatchiks, and an end to politically determined winners and losers.

Read the whole thing here.

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