In November 2007, the Songwriters Association of Canada shocked the music industry and many Canadians by proposing the full legalization of music file sharing. The SAC proposal was based on the premise that file sharing was not going away, that lawsuits against file sharers do more harm than good, and that the continued emphasis on using digital locks to control copying has been a complete failure. In the view of thousands of Canadian songwriters, the better way forward was to encourage music sharing by monetizing it. The SAC proposal envisioned a levy (five dollars per month was floated as a possibility) that would be used to compensate creators for the sharing. In return, Canadians would be entitled to freely share music for non-commercial purposes.
The reaction to the SAC proposal was generally critical. The recording industry rejected it out-of-hand, arguing that it violated international copyright law. Consumer groups were also skeptical, noting that a mandatory universal levy would result in payments by non-music sharers, who would effectively subsidize those sharing music. Notwithstanding the criticism, the SAC persisted. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that last week, it quietly unveiled a revised version of the proposal at a public forum on copyright in Toronto. The new version, which addresses many of these earlier criticisms, is far more promising and there are indications that the SAC may be joined by other creator organizations in pursuit of a legalization strategy.