Subscription-Based Services and IP Law

by Cameron Tyler on July 10, 2012

Over the past decade, the way in which people listen to music has changed dramatically. As the Internet has become a place that is nearly as much about socializing and entertainment as it is about the sharing of information, it’s no surprise that large part of our musical lives have moved online. CDs have largely been replaced by digital downloads and subscription-based listening services. These changes don’t have to be harmful to the people who create the music, as long as intellectual property law can keep up with the changing tides.

Starting with floppy disks and file transfer services, people have been sharing digital files for years. Soon, though, people started stealing content using specialized software, eschewing legal file sharing means and purchases and going for the free option. That’s started changing, though, as, once again, legal methods of content sharing have come to the fore.

Subscription Based Music

When taking a position on subscription-based music services, it’s important to remember that the music isn’t free. Some users, of course, pay for a subscription, which buys them the privilege of listening without interruption. Those who don’t pay for a subscription and listen through a free account must listen to commercials. The money earned from this advertising goes toward licensing fees, so even non-paying customers technically earn money for the artists.

Industry Positions

Some record labels have taken stands against subscription based music services, such as Spotify and Rhapsody. As long as these services exist, they argue, there is no reason for people to purchase albums by the artists who make the music. Others have accepted subscription-based sites as a necessary service in a changing digital world. Subscription services work through licensing agreements with artists, labels and publishers, so they do serve as a source of income for the creators.

Why it’s Better

Remember Napster when it was free? If you do, you know how much of an improvement the subscription music services of today are over the music-sharing sites that first arose on the Internet. As soon as copying music onto a computer became a simple process, everyone began doing it and sharing those files freely with others. Consumers could download just about anything they wanted online, and no one paid a dime. It was a free-for-all, and the losers were the artists, labels and publishers. The way in which lawmakers got a handle on this situation and cracked down on free file sharing is the same way they must go about keeping subscription services on the up and up now.

The Goal of IP Law

Subscription services do not sell music. The library remains open to listeners only while they maintain active accounts. The goal for lawmakers is to ensure that artists, labels and publishers get paid based on the details of their individuals licenses and to monitor subscription services for changes that could violate copyright law.

Digital music isn’t going anywhere. The more time that people spend online, the more likely it is that subscription based music services will become our main mode of music consumption. Subscription services have shown rapid growth in Europe and are becoming increasingly popular in the United States.

At this point, it seems as if these music services are abiding by the law and honoring each song’s copyright. So, the goal of lawmakers should be to monitor the usage of the sites and make sure it stays that way.

Cameron Tyler

Cameron Tyler

Cameron Tyler

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