Suggesting taxes in March makes Americans nervous — who knew? Photo: romanlily. Wait … crap. It’s almost April, isn’t it?

It seems Warner exec Jim Griffin was unprepared for the rancor of the Interwebs, because he’s backpedaling on a proposal to create a blanket fee for ISPs on music. All of that was just part of a “dynamic conversation,” says Griffin in a statement, and “It would be unfortunate if a creative and fruitful dialogue were sidetracked by a rush to judgment about what was simply my own illustrative example of one of many concepts I have in this space.”

Yes, indeed — it’d be unfortunate if a discussion of a hair-brained scheme with no plan for implementation or investment from any of the stakeholders were derailed by the fact that it was a hair-brained scheme with no plan for implementation or investment from any of the stakeholders.

See some excellent coverage and analysis from CNet’s Greg Sandoval.

And as Sandoval notes, “What happens is that people hear the word “tax” and objective analysis goes out the window. People condemn and vilify. Out comes the torches and pitchforks.” That lack of objectivity is what frustrated me yesterday, even without being a specialist on the legal details

Of course, I disagree with Griffin about what happens to the “dynamic conversation” when people bring out the pitchforks. He says people lose the opportunity to “consider a variety of raw concepts without prejudice.” I say they lose the opportunity to consider just how out of touch with reality his proposal is.

Music attorney Chris Castle is far more qualified than I am to make such arguments:

Warner Music’s tune of folly 

He points out some of what I did — plus more problems I didn’t. (Hey, there are so many holes in this proposal, it’s impossible to cover them all.)

  • The proposal doesn’t calculate what people are listening to
  • The plan only covers Warner Brothers
  • The plan promises billions to creative people without determining how to split it up or subtracting the cost of implementation
  • The plan would require amending the US Copyright Act
  • … and that could violate international treaties
  • … and it’s a plan for the US while the Web is international
  • … and the French defeated a similar plan
  • … and ISPs won’t like it
  • … and P2P services being targeted won’t cooperate
  • … and consumer’s don’t like it

Yeah, I only got part of that list before.

Aside from that, this is a great idea! I think. Actually, I’ve forgotten what the original pros were supposed to be. We’re all free to pirate music for a small fee that violates international law? Uh … great?

Here’s my problem with the pitchforks and rioting response from bloggers: the fear and panic suggests this is something that might happen, when it’s clear governments, lawyers, copyright holders, ISPs, P2P services, music consumers, Internet users, Internet rights advocates, and even other labels are likely to be against it. It’s like people held up a “Don’t tread on me” banner when they should have held up a “Ground control to Major Tom, we’ve got no idea what the *(&$# you’re talking about.” sign.

And that brings up a fundamental question I have:

Just what is it about the Internet that makes it suddenly necessary to have to “consider a variety of raw concepts without prejudice.” I mean, maybe I’m caught in the Old World models here, but couldn’t we try talking about things that aren’t wildly impractical, illegal, and counter to the interests of everyone involved?

Oh, well. Back to talking about music technology on this site. And, hey, if the blog torches and pitchforks helped give a reality check to an out-of-touch exec, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Have a great weekend. See you Monday with odd sound-making boxes.