Stupid, stupid, idea

In a major report to be released next week a new agency will be set up to look at how the issue of online "piracy" should be tackled.

One proposal being studied is imposing a universal levy on broadband bills to compensate film and music companies for their losses from illegal downloads. Most broadband packages cost around £15 a month.

The plan is being considered by Lord Carter, the Communications Minister, who is to unveil his new report setting out his vision for Digital Britain.

The entertainment industry – which has lobbied for the fee to be introduced – estimates it will lose £1 billion over the next five years due to piracy.

Lord Carter is known to be sympathetic to the proposals, but according to industry sources (MUST KEEP), he will stop short of explicitly backing the plan for fear of slowing his drive for universal broadband across the country by 2012.

Look, the music business isn\’t the first industry to have its business model destroyed by advancing technology and it won\’t be the last, either. We don\’t tax cars to pay buggy whip manufacturers. We shouldn\’t tax those who have broadband access to pay for the illegal downloads made by some broadband customers.

10 comments on “Stupid, stupid, idea

  1. Tim,
    Too right. I work in the music business, and have been having a long-running argument with others in the industry about this. Many in the US seem set on the idea that taxing ISPs is the way forwards, but it patently isn’t; if only because the vast majority of piracy takes place in territories where ISPs won’t be taxed (Russia, China, etc).

    Piracy in the “Western” world is not really that high, and the market for paid-for-digital-music is growing at a phenomenal rate. The market is clearly showing the way if you actually look at the figures – as the market is starting to make it easier for people to buy music legitimately, so they are starting to do just that. State intervention is not required.

    AVI

  2. While I agree with you I don’t think the analogy holds – carmakers didn’t take the buggy-whip makers’ whips without paying, after all (and yes, I know that analogy doesn’t fully hold because IP is a non-rival good but YKWIM).

  3. Also, on a purely practical note, who will decide who gets the revenue?

    I imagine the traditional big labels will share the spoils, while independent producers get left out in the cold, thereby ensuring the oligopoly in the music business continues unthreatened.

  4. Tim’s analogy isn’t perfect but his point is.

    How about CDs? We don’t impose a special tax on CDs or DVDs to pay for the breaches of copyright that some people use them for?

  5. Here in Canada royalties have been collected on blank CDs and DVDs for several years. I don’t if they have figured out how to distribute them yet.

  6. AVI is right – most of the 17 and 18 year olds I know, are happy to pay for their music downloads even though they’re well capable of getting whatever they want free on bit-torrent.

  7. To right Tim. This is a levy for the music industry not musicians. Today’s upcoming bands are comfortable with the web and make money in selling music directl and in other ways without the help of the big labels. That is what the industry really hates.

  8. Also, on a purely practical note, who will decide who gets the revenue?

    Same basis as PRS licenses, which have done a pretty good job at solving exactly this problem for, ooh, 70 years or so?

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