Many UK participants in Daniweb will be aware of the various social media that carry music. They will have been delighted by the free stuff that you can listen to on Last.FM, Spotify and YouTube - you can even get the Beatles on YouTube, which is pretty much unique among online providers.

Except that cracks are starting to appear. Yesterday the holders of the rights to music in the UK had a falling-out with YouTube so we can expect some of the music to be taken down. Last month Spotify had to start restricting its music along regional lines.

I'm not going to start a rant on how people need to make stuff available and come to an agreement - these are commercial issues, there will be grandstanding, huffing and puffing and the services will come back eventually. It's what these companies do.

The underlying issue is that since the Web became popular over a decade ago, it's been promoting things as available for free. Editorial content (about which we journalists feel strongly), music, video, free stuff has been where it's at. Google has even done it with applications. And yet nowhere in a musician's contract does it say that if I sign up to a service called Spotify I should be allowed loads of entertainment without payment.

Many newspapers are starting to suffer from this universal absence of charge, and the music world has been concerned about it for a while. If Google Docs and Apps start to gain serious ground then the expectation of freebies is going to increase. Funding R&D then becomes an issue.

I do wonder whether it's time for a number of providers to turn - subtly by all means - in their tracks and start managing expectations so that people expect to pay for things that are of value. Granted, the world economy means it's a lousy time to do this, but if the Internet is constantly marketed as one giant freebie then where's it going to be in ten years?

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Once peer to peer social networking gets off the ground, things will be back to being free again.

You could well be right, and then there will be a whole new issue about how to fund future talent, future development for applications that are suddenly free (therefore less opportunity to reinvest). Peer to peer social networking could be a great thing but it could also hamstring future developments.

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