That was a good rant. I wanted to mod it up, but I can't, so I'm just saying it in words instead.
As someone who is strongly against piracy now, this entire discussion has struck a chord (no pun intended) with me.
Although I did enjoy your rant, I honestly think that the record companies aren't the only ones to blame here or to be called greedy. Although record companies, just like any businesses, are built around money and thus greed, no one seems to have made mention of those doing the pirating. Imagine if nobody ever pirated music, if there was no file "sharing", no Bit Torrent and everyone who wanted to listen to an album went to a record store and purchased it with cold, hard cash. Would the fee being discussed here ever have been introduced? Would it have even been considered? I'd say the likely answer is no. The real culprit in this particular scenario is not only the record companies, but the ones who prompted them into action, the music thieves (let's call it what it is and you know who you are.). The legitimate consumers among us are paying for your free entertainment.
This is not intended to be flamebait, it's just something that I have a very strong opinion about.