Tax broadband instead of raiding P2P users

, posted: 8-Jun-2006 19:23

Tax broadband instead of raiding P2P usersFollowing the police raid on Swedish torrent tracker The Pirate Bay that was criticised for being heavy-handed and orchestrated by the US government, voices are now calling for a truce in the "Filesharing Wars".

Putting people in prison for filesharing and allowing the music and movie studios to dictate to governments in other countries to raid citizens in sovereign countries isn't the way forward for anyone. In Sweden alone, some 700,000 people are said to be swapping files with one another.

What to do though, because clearly the copyright owners - and the artists, most importantly - need to be paid for their efforts. Some time ago, Canada mooted a tax on blank Compact Discs to compensate artists for users copying music, and now the Swedes are suggesting a similar method but perhaps a better one: a tax on broadband to pay for filesharing.

This is what two board members of the country's national broadcaster, Jan Ilshammar and Jeanette Gustafsdotter, put forward in an opinion piece in Sweden's third largest daily, Svenska Dagbladet (linked below, but in Swedish only, hence this blog entry) and I think the idea has merit.

The pair point out that content sharing is not only impractical to halt for the entertainment industry, which is spending increasing amounts of money and effort on hunting down copyright violators, but also that it's nothing new. We've already been there, done that, with cassette tapes in the seventies. The reaction from the music industry then was pretty similar to the aggressive one seen today, and it was just as futile. Some bands like Bow Wow Wow capitalised on the hard-nosed attitude of the music industry and people's anger at being targetted as criminals by it.

Unfortunately, while I think the entertainment industry would love a broadband tax, it isn't very likely to accept content sharing, not unless governments grow some backbone and refuse to raid P2P users on its behalf. There's also the question of fair allocation of the money the tax brings in: who would decide how much goes to the artists and how much the music and movie moguls get?

Nevertheless, it's a sound idea that is worth discussing. The alternative is to live with an increasingly aggressive entertainment industry that employs jackbooted copyright enforcers prowling for people who may or may not have illegal content on them.

I'm surprised that iPod users with their tell-tale white earbuds aren't already being pulled over in the streets by copyright enforcers, actually (format-shifting is illegal in some countries, including New Zealand, which makes iPod users who copy music over to their devices criminals).

Update: Former RIAA chairman and CEO Hilary Rosen says suing people has "outlived most of [its] usefulness] and the record companies need to work harder to implement a strategy that legitimises P2P sites.

Rosen also expresses doubt over Digital Rights Management systems, like the proprietary one in iPods.

More information

Other related posts:
Over 1,000,000 torrents of downloadable books, music and movies
Megaupload and the US grand jury
Filesonic disables file sharing; due to MegaUpload?

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