Of course. That's the answer. Easy. Japan has sorted it all out.
They're planning to put a tax on MP3 players.
This will be an interesting move not because a single country is planning such a tax - let's be honest, I'm in the UK, the chances are most readers are going to be in America and Japan can't hit either of us with any sort of levy.
Moves are certainly afoot in the UK to introduce some sort of tax because the music industry is tired of its efforts being distributed without payment. I have no information on whether there's anything similar in the offing Stateside, but it wouldn't surprise me. The problem is going to be that taxing iPods and other MP3 players is missing the point - these aren't the devices that distribute music, they're just the players.
And anyway, how do you define 'MP3 player'? My iMac certainly plays MP3s if I ask it nicely, does that make it eligible for this new sort of tax? It's capable of ripping CDs and duplicating them so it's arguably more of a threat to musicians than a single flash-drive-driven outputter.
So far, so consumery - but what about the corporate networks on which there is already loads of illegal music? I was doing some corporate work a couple of years ago and a senior executive at a company I'd better not name told me that although he knew it was against the rules, he often used his company's PC to download music from iTunes and copy it to his iPod (he had a good reason - it was faster than at home, apparently). So what do we do - tax everything that could be responsible for copying music illegally?
No doubt a lot of people will praise the Japanese idea. Even if it turns out not to be the right solution to a growing problem, it's doing something rather than nothing. The snag is, I think they're addressing the wrong problem.