Alternative Compensation System: The future?
It has been suggested that an Alternative Compensation System or ACS be set up to provide a legal way for people to access film and music. The consumer will be taxed on technology used to access the system so the copyright owners will still see revenue, but most users will consider the content to be free. In other words it would be a “governmentally sponsored award system,” that “encourages efficient, legal distribution of creative works over the internet and ensures that copyright owners are fairly compensated for the distributed works.” An ACS would be a database that housed all the creative content a consumer could want. It would be free to download and use. Mobile phones, internet access, computers, blank CDs and DVDs would all be taxed in order to compensate the authors. This money would be collected and redistributed to copyright holders based on the usage of their song on the site. It seems like a simple solution to a complex problem.
There are however, some big problems. The foremost is the fact that the internet is a global entity. This site would have to have some kind of security measures in place to make sure that only people in China would be able to access it. Otherwise, taxpayers in China alone would be funding free music for the entire world. Along with this problem is the thought that if everyone could have access, the actual money would end up going to the wrong people. The tastes of the Chinese people would be skewed by the outside world and the people paying for the service would have little say in who was popular and receiving moneys. Both the consumers and the copyright holders would feel cheated.
Companies would need to have the option to be a part of this system and not be forced into participation. On the other hand, the Chinese government might restrict the companies that could participate in the ACS in an effort to boost the native Chinese film and music industry. I think there would need to be a balance between the two. Too much restriction and China could get in trouble with the World Trade Organization for protectionism and possibly boost the pirate industry. Too little restriction and outside forces could completely wipe out the Chinese creative industries.
Another barrier for ACS would be the taxation system in China. Currently, it is shoddy at best, especially in the rural areas. Taxes are often not collected or withheld because most transactions are cash based or untraceable. People who are not using these technological devices for entertainment purposes might feel cheated as well by this taxation because they are paying for something they don’t use. Also, through this system, the government would have broader control over what the public had access to. As I mentioned above, this censorship could enhance the value and increase the demand in pirated works, bringing us back to square one.
One point that was brought up was the question of whether such a system, when implemented, would stunt the growth of the industry. As of now, with the current course of action, businesses are working hard to adapt to the new, technological world. They are coming up with new ways of making money and new ways of adding value to their products. If an ACS were implemented, would this growth stop? What would happen if the rest of the world did not adopt such a system? Chinese film and music companies would only be able to make money in China because they had not adapted to a market outside of ACS. They would not know how to make money in the United States or Europe.
I believe the ACS is a good idea in theory, but there are still many holes to plug up. A technologically minded person could easily trick this system into thinking their IP address was in China or be able to steal someone’s username and password. With the music industry changing and growing so quickly, I think a system such as this would stagnate that growth in China and put it behind in the race to monetize music once again. It could have devastating impacts on China’s future in music and films. I believe that foreign countries were right to push China to create a copyright law and teach people about the value of their creative works. But I don’t think, seeing as China is making broad steps forward, that foreign countries are right to continue to push China into possibly implementing this system. It takes a long time to adopt new thoughts and values. In the end, I think foreigners should be focusing on adapting to their own markets and let China take its time. Patience is a virtue.
It was difficult to read Chinese so here is a song from China.