Yesterday I wrote that Comcast cooperating with Bittorrent was the story of the day. Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong: In the afternoon we saw something that might turn out to be the story of the decade, or at least the beginning of the end of the music biz as we know it.

Warner Music has hired digital music veteran turned industry critic Jim Griffin to spearhead a collective licensing initiative. Portfolio broke the story with a portrait of Griffin, and tons of people have since chimed in, with Mike Arrington calling the idea "the music industry's new extortion scheme", and others asking what would happen th the movie biz, photographers and other creative folks.

Hypebot has a great summary of the reactions in the blogosphere, but they got the headline all wrong, calling Griffin's plan an ISP music tax. I've had the pleasure to share many conversations with Jim Griffin over a bowl of soup at Pho 87 in Los Angeles, and I did a number of longer interviews with him over the years. We'll have to wait and see what Warner Music will actually end up doing, but Griffins thinking really doesn't have anything to do with taxation.

The key is that Griffin is championing voluntary collective licensing, meaning that ISPs won't have to pay five bucks per month - but they might want to anyway. Now why would they? Because it could help them to establish a multitude of new business models on top of their existing offerings.

People who have been following the P2P world in a while might remember Audiogalaxy as one of the greatest music sharing sites ever. It was web-based, semi-centralized and great to find indie and obscure stuff. You could even queue up downloads to start at a later time if any of the millions of tracks in Audiogalaxy's database wasn't available online right away. Well, guess what? Start collective licensing, and ISPs could run the next version of Audiogalaxy right within their networks, with fast download between their customers.

Now what about movies, TV shows and photos? And will someone please think of the smut peddlers? The beauty of voluntary collective licensing is that it is a business model, not a government mandate. It makes sense for music, so record labels will be the first ones at the table. Does it make sense for TV shows? Maybe not, advertising has been working out quite well for the networks for decades.

How about photos? I really don't know - but if photographers, or Getty for that matter, really felt like allowing file sharing in exchange for a collective license would help them, then they could approach ISPs and see what they can negotiate. My prediction is that we won't see any other collective license for quite a while. But, then again, I expected the music biz to take another ten or so years before they would embrace this idea. I guess they're smarter than I thought.

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