Just plain dumb for Universal
One thing that I really like about the blank media levy in Canada is that it allows, by virtue of contract law, the ability to say to the whiners (RIAA) "You've been compensated, now shove off (and get bent)". While it doesn't allow you to upload, it does permit downloading of music.
If Universal wishes to apply something this poorly thought out, then they and their attack dog organization should be forced to shut up about lost sales due to downloading. The fact would be for downloaded tunes, they would have recieved their piece of pie, even if they wind up wearing it.
As for those worried about it being for all computers, this isn't what the article is talking about, not yet anyways. This is simply talking about a contracted share of Ipod revenue for the use, at the existing rate, of the Universal portfolio. The slippery slope argument, the "what MIGHT be used for" rubble is just that, someone somewhere will draw a line in the sand. Given that Universal really has no clout with computer manufacturers, it's unlikely that they'll be able to apply this to HDs or computers in general. As for a gov't legislated thing, that's unlikely at this point, but is a whole different problem.
Personally I think Apple will/should dare them to take their ball(s) and go home. Short of 2 or more of the major labels pulling out, and setting up their own successful online distribution network, which would need to be done cooperatively (in order to be competitive with P2P, remnants of iTunes, etc). The Ipod and it's revenues won't be seriously affected, the labels would see a real impact in their revenue streams (61% of 2.5Bn over 4 years). Apple sees an impact of 15%, with say a teardown of 40% costs.
You're talking each of the big 4 labels takes an average impact of 100M/year
Apple eats: 56M/year.
My response as Apple would be to pursue the bands themselves, expand the garage band concept, offering them something rediculous like a 40-60 split. At that point especially the large artists should, as their contracts expire, leave the major labels as it becomes far more lucrative for them to sell through iTunes, and they have the recognition to not need the distribution network of the major labels. With the big guys in tow, the little artists will follow, and Apple will really have hurt the major labels, and becomes a label themselves. The major labels effectively have to focus on breakout talent, or give the artists a fairer shake of the profits, and I don't see how that's bad. Apple really has the big stick here, I dunno why Universal is taking this approach to diplomacy, it's just going to hurt them in the end.
Back to the "royalty" crap, I think this should allow you to download all you want, I'd love to go further and see uploading too. Either that or a reasonable copyright time.
But IANAL, so take it with a grain of salt.