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Isle of Man goes Blanket License

22 01 2009

Ars Technica wrote yesterday that the Isle of Man‘s investment minister Ron Berry had announced that the Isle of Man would introduce a Blanket License.

“At the end of the day, we’re not going to stop piracy,” said Berry. “Embrace it… Had the music industry embraced [the original Napster], we’d have a very different medium today.”

Under the terms of the license, every citizen of the island, which allegedly has a 100% broadband penetration, would be allowed to legally engage in file sharing. Interestingly, the model seems to be supported by the recording industry as the statements by BPI’s Geoff Taylor indicate. Given the less than enthusiastic reaction of the industry to the blanket license model in the recent year, who seemed to focus on again alienating customers with “Three Strikes” or “Graduate Response” models of deterrence, this could mark a paradigm shift. If the trial at the Isle of Man will be successful, this could be the beginning of a new era, in which consumer and industry interests are no longer adverse, but aligned by a smart business model.

While Ars Technica already sees “Grandma (…) browse BitTorrent trackers for songs of unknown quality (and with perhaps limited metadata and album art)” while still paying for the license, I have argued elsewhere that the introduction of a blanket license will inspire the creation of a new generation of new music services, which will compete on convenience and customer satisfaction rather than on access to the catalogues of the major record labels. The blanket license does not mean the end of iTunes&Co, but it means that having a contract with a major does no longer protect your turf from competition.

So, good news for customers, including Grandma – and by the way, who sold that broadband Internet connection to her anyway?