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Paywall By Force: Swedish Public Television Starts Webcasting, Demands TV License Fees From All Computer Owners

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Infopolicy

Infopolicy

Swedish Public Television will start demanding license fees from every Swedish person connected to the Internet. They claim that since people on the net have the ability to see their webcasts, that counts as a television set. This is a technophobic overreach that will call the existence of public service TV as such into question.

In most states in Europe, there are governmentally-run television channels that are funded by license fees on television sets. The British BBC would probably be the most well-known example worldwide. It works like this: if you own a television set, you pay the public service channels a fee every month or year, and this money goes to produce independent, noncommercial programming. For the UK, the fee for owning a TV set is about €150 per year that goes to the BBC.

Thus, the funding of the public television channels is funded by the theoretical ability to receive them, whether you actually watch them or not. This has been under fire for some time, but has general acceptance, mostly because of lack of an alternative.

Now, as the Swedish Public Television SVT starts webcasting, they have decided to take this to a whole new level by reading the law text that says that they can collect fees from anybody with a theoretical capability to watch their programming, and demand fees from everybody connected to the Internet – all computer owners, as well as owners of pads and tablets. How’s that for a paywall?

There’s a significant amount of craniorectal interaction in this re-interpretation of the law. The television set is a one-purpose device – it can receive television programming, and that’s it. The general-purpose device is just that – a general-purpose device. It can be instructed to receive, process, store, distribute, and display any type of information. While it lies in its nature that it can receive and display any type of TV programming available to it, that doesn’t make it primarily intended to do so. A television set, by contrast, can do little else.

While the SVT’s interpretation of the law would subject people worldwide to their desire for funding, the laws enabling them to collect TV license fees are only in force up until the Swedish borders, so this would just apply to Swedish residents.

This is dumb greed, and just dumb, for three reasons:

First, this amounts to an innovation tax. By requiring €150 from every household that wants to have a computer, you are stifling the economy in a way that hinders innovation where it’s needed the most – on the long tail in small scale, where the successful enterprises start: never forget that Apple and Google both started in garages less than half a human lifetime ago. Allowing the public service television to externalize this friction on the overall economy is not acceptable.

Second, it’s plainly not reasonable to equate a general-purpose computer or tablet with a dumb TV. It paints the entire public service television staff as technoretards in a time when a need for independent and critical reporting is actually quite significant.

Third, public service funding has been under fire for some time, which makes it doubly important to appear reasonable and balanced. This is neither, risking the public service funding as a whole for a few extra theoretical per cent of licenses from households that have no TV set but do have broadband.

This move is bound to bring about a discussion whether we need public service television at all, and if so, what for.

For myself, I will be blocking the SVT in my firewall as of right now, making my computer incapable of receiving its programming. (I haven’t owned a TV set in 15 years.)

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About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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  1. 1
    Craig Stewart

    You said “The television set is a one-purpose device – it can receive television programming, and that’s it.” That in itself isn’t actually true, I use my TV for gaming on a console much more than I do for watching TV. Also, I know many who only use theirs to watch content from their phones/tablets/PCs on a big screen.

    And I have to congratulate you on making me spit my coffee over my laptop laughing at “craniorectal interaction”. :D

    Keep up the good work Rick. :)

    • 1.1

      …it can receive television programming, and that’s it.” That in itself isn’t actually true, I use my TV for gaming on a console much more than I do for watching TV.

      Well yes, that’s true, but that’s not because the TV adapts to your game console, right? It’s because the game console masquerades its output as TV programming.

      • 1.1.1
        Liam Pomfret (@LiamPomfret)

        Actually, no. While in the past, consoles tended to connect to TV’s through an RF switch (effectively masquerading as TV programming), that’s no longer the case. All modern consoles connect through external input cables, similar to how you might hook up a disc player or a computer to the TV.

  2. 2

    Finland just gave up TV license fees and moved to fully tax-funded public programming. So it was moved in the same category as health, police, military, etc. The opponents argue that it’s unfair to make people pay for programming they don’t watch, the proponents say that a) it’s a good idea to have a TV channel whose news don’t depend on who happens to be the biggest commercial sponsor and who doesn’t have to cater for advertisers, and b) this kills the obsolete tv licensing scheme, which does not work in the age of Internet. As evidenced by the dorky move by FST, above.

    • 2.1
      d.

      I never paid my TV fees even when they were in effect. The TV-fee collectors were sort of toothless, in that if you didn’t open the door to them, there was pretty much nothing they could do.

      I’m glad Finland moved to a more sensible system. If we have a public television, it’s only fair that it’s paid with tax money, because a public tv benefits us all as a society. And our income taxes are progressive so I see them much more fair than a flat-rate TV fee.

  3. 3
    John

    You should probably point out that the BBC license only applies to live broadcast as it happens. i.e. you pay for first access which seems reasonable.

    The BBC iPlayer warns you if you attempt to watch live feed as opposed to a replay, so there is little chance of getting caught by accident, so they are not really trolling either.

    Effectively, you pay if you want priority access otherwise it is optional.

    Are you sure the Swedish are wanting to charge for repeats?

    • 3.1
      Dick Kipling

      “For the UK, the fee for owning a TV set is about €150 per year that goes to the BBC.”… this is not entirely accurate.

      John is correct; you only pay if you use the TV to watch live television. If you only use it for console gaming, watching DVDs, etc you don’t have to pay any fees.

      • 3.1.1
        Grobble

        No – that loophole in the UK law was closed many years ago – and now you have to pay the license fee whether you watch the TV or not. If you own a TV and only use it for video games or to watch DVDs then the reciever circuitry has be be physically removed – or you still need a licence. And, of course, the “detector van” can determine if you have reciever circuitry in the house (even if not turned on) – by “pinging” it and listening for the electromagnetic “echo”. The licence is to own recieving equipment – it is not a licence to watch TV. But yes, watching live streamed TV without owning a licence is an offence – but iplayer repeats can be watched for free.

        • CrystalShadow

          That is completely false. I know because I have functioning (Analog) receiving equipment in my TV, and the TV licencing agency knows I do, but has still given me an exemption anyway.

          For that matter, the exact wording on the licence fee states that it covers ‘watching TV as it is broadcast.” – It has nothing whatsoever

          This is a direct quote from the BBC:

          Do I need a TV licence?

          “You need a TV licence to use any television receiving equipment – such as a TV set, set-top box, video or DVD recorder, computer or mobile phone – to watch or record TV programmes as they are being shown on TV.”

          (from http://www.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/insidethebbc/whoweare/licencefee/howtopay.html)

          Granted, technically I have no receiving equipment because there are no longer any analog broadcasts in the area, but that certainly wasn’t the case when I got the exemption in the first place.

          Trust me, I’ve looked into this extensively given the situation.

          One thing worth mentioning in relation to the post itself is that the UK TV licensing group tried to pull the same stunt the Swedish one seems to be trying.

          They wanted you to have to pay a TV licence fee if you owned a computer.

          That got thrown out as unreasonable in the UK though…

  4. 4

    Germany demands TV license fees for mobile phones and computers connected to the internet also (and radio receivers). I think public service should be tax financed but narrower in its scope. Private channels can feed entertainment to the people.

    • 4.1
      Etzypalooza

      “Private channels can feed entertainment to the people.”
      Oscar thats a really bad idea as most private channels make much worse entertainmanet programs than SVT, probably because the private channels are more interested in profits than in making good programs. Also if lighter entertainment wasn’t shown on SVT a lot of the more deep programs would lose scores of casual viewers.
      Not having commercials interrupting ones viewing is also a huge plus for SVT.

      • 4.1.1
        Bengt

        What are “worse” and “good” programs is just a matter of taste.

        “because the private channels are more interested in profits than in making good programs”
        That doesn’t make any sense at all. Private media spends a lot effort into figuring out what are “good programs” because that is exactly where money is made.

        There are a lot of good and “deep” programs on privately owned channels, such as the Discovery network. The claim that only channels financed with the threat of violence can provide “quality” is simply BS.

  5. 5
    Mikael Nilsson

    On a related note, TVs are certainly moving in the direction of being general purpose computers as well. Dumb TVs are a thing of the past. So I guess this interpretation will be forced on them at some point anyway.

  6. 6
    misskate

    Switzerland also has a radio/tv license fee called Billag. Proving that you are not accessing radio or television programming is difficult because if you own a car, you can access radio or have an internet connection, you can access radio and television programming. So, pretty much everyone has to pay and the hoops you have to jump through to prove you don’t access tv/radio are a pain in the neck.

    I actually don’t fuss too much over it. I don’t listen to Swiss radio and I have not owned a tv for years (that does more than show than dvds), but I watch a LOT of tv shows over the internet, so I figure paying my billag is a way of covering that. But then Switzerland has awesome laws regarding streaming/downloading for personal use.

    • 6.1
      Enoch Root

      It’s not a matter of you paying because you watch some TV programs or radio shows. It’s a matter of the compulsive nature of it. I have to pay even if I don’t watch them, I don’t have a choice. That’s where I have a problem with this kind of law. It’s a tax in disguise.

      I live in Ireland now, and I’m not paying the tax since I told Irish authorities that I did not own a TV set. I do own one now, so I’m breaking the law. So be it. If they send an inspector I have vowed to destroy my TV set in front oh him while taping it and then posting it to Youtube.

  7. 7
    Jan H. Hansen

    Denmark has a similar arrangement and while I agree with you on most things, I’m not so sure this is such a bad thing.
    This is a complicated issue and your post doesn’t even begin to attempt to discuss the well known controversies.
    Tax vs. “Licens”: Is it reasonable that public service channels collect money directly from the public rather than get a huge check each year from ministry of taxation. One could argue that being able to collect money themselves public service channels are more unlikely to be coerced by government.
    It’s entirely reasonable that citizens pay for public service they themselves don’t use.
    If public service channels are desirable, we need to figure out how to keep them funded without becoming too dependent on government.
    “Licens” does have some undesirable properties like being very expensive for low income groups.

    • 7.1
      Neverhood

      And who grants the public service company the right to collect money and decides how much they can collect? That’s right, the government. So no difference at all.

      Any more advantages of the current model?

      • 7.1.1
        Pieter Kok

        Changing the amount a broadcaster can ask in a license tends to be much harder than changing the amount the broadcaster gets in the annual budget. The former needs a special law, while the latter can be hidden in the general budget approval in parliament. So there is a difference.

    • 7.2
      amish_person

      It’s entirely reasonable that citizens pay for public service they themselves don’t use.

      Says you.

    • 7.3
      F_F

      I do not pay licens to Danish Radio. I simply refuse, because why should I pay for a service I havent watched for 10 years? DR Licens is nothing short of legal robery and if they want me to pay they would have to drag me to court. I hope the Swedish citizens will go into uproar over this so Denmark have a reason to follow suit.

  8. 8
    Elias

    Even though a tv set is a one-purpose device you can watch hundreds of channels with it. So this kind of fee doesn’t make sense and hasn’t made sense the last 25 years or so.

  9. 9
    Neverhood

    Computers with internet has been covered by the Danish public service license since 2007. This covers all devices capable of reproducing TV streams in a household with a internet connection with a download speed of 256 Kb/s or more.

    Much to my surprise there where no major uprising or discussion outside tech-wise circles. The usual mainstream argument I hear is that it is good because it funnels more money to noncommercial culture.

  10. 10
    Mumfi.

    It is not actually an unreasonable idea.
    There is no real distinction between a tv and a computer. Both have the same components and the difference is in the usage rather than the technical composition. I have always felt that it instead is unreasonable to tax tv, and not a computer connected to a screen. If there is to be a distinction it could better be for screen size or some such quality.

    As it is I would rather see that the tax was applied on income as other taxes, only separated from other taxes to give at least a feeling of independence to public service tv. The tax really should not be dependent upon citizens choosing to have access to public service tv! I feel it is the role of public service to provide programs not for the masses, but for the marginal interests for which there is no commercially viable alternatives. The equation for commercial tv is that it is better to have a large base of abject viewers than a small number of content users. Public service should be an alternative for narrow programing.

  11. [...] Public TV starts webcasting, demands TV license fees from computer and tablet owners – falkvinge.net/2013/01/22/pay… Share this:Google [...]

  12. 11
    Anonymous

    the really annoying part of the UK system is that no one is allowed to not have BBC channels and then not pay the license fee. most BBC programs are crap, in my opinion. i would much prefer to not pay the fee and lose the channels but the good ol’ UK government refuses to give consumers that choice, even when it has been proven that there is so much money wasted there and services are far from good!
    as for the now starting Swedish service, people should have a choice of paying or not. if the TV service doesn’t want people watching programs on the PC, dont put them on the web. dont take a friggin genius to realise that what they are doing is making the service available on purpose simply so they can charge consumers extra, even if the consumer doesn’t want the service!

  13. 12
    Jonas L

    Correct except for your main point. It is not up to SVT to decide, its a governmental and political decision.

  14. 13
    juan c

    In méxico public Tv is almost nonexistent, as funding is very limited (and ill spent). I wish it was different. However, mediums should not be confused. A browser capable TV is still a TV, one that can turn into other media but requires several “activations” (internet access, configuration, etc). Thus, it’s primary/natural function is still being a dumb TV. The computer works the other way around: you need to “activate” several features (simple as they may be) to access TV programs. Thus, it’s a general purpose device which CAN act as a TV receiver. I believe SVT should be banned from webcasting, since it’s a ´public TELEVISION company, and required to create a new company solely for the purpose of distributing those webcasts. Thus, the new company shouldn’t be able to profit from the funding, since it’s not a public TV company (keep the distinction clear, since the laws where made in that context). In fact, the webcasting company should pay SVT for re-casting. However, I believe this distinction will soon banish and the debate will be taken to a new level, and it will requiere new rules and laws, not extending the old ones or reinterpreting them.

  15. 14
    Björn Persson

    I might be willing to pay if they’d use patent-free standard protocols and video formats, and maintain a public archive with permanent URLs. The volatile proprietary junk they call “SVT Play” is worth zilch to me. I’m not going to pay if they won’t give me what I pay for.

  16. 15

    I don’t have the ability to watch their webcasts. They never gave me the ability. They gave it to Adobe. The webcasts are sent in a secret format with DRM that only programs from Adobe can decode. Since I don’t have any programs from Adobe on my computer, I cannot watch them. It would be nice if they added a fee to be payed by anyone who installs the malware Adobe Flash Player, and let the rest of computer owners skip paying the fee.

    I’m happy that I escaped Sweden. But what will happen when I come back? Will they confiscate my computer at the airport unless I’m registered to pay the fee? And what about all the tourists? Will every tourist who brings a cell phone be required to pay the fee?

  17. 16
    Vincent Vega

    What about other solution:
    1. Web podcasts are paywalled
    2. Unless you pay this tax. Then you are given a code that unlocks these web services.

    I think something similar works in Poland. You can stream public tv through the internet for a fee, unless you pay standard tv tax, then you are given a code that unlocks the web version.

    • 16.1

      That would be another horror story. “In Sweden, TV watches you.” People should not have to identify themselves in order to watch TV.

      I believe that a better solution would be to privatize all TV shows that don’t have a particular reason to be publicly funded. The commercial channels can buy movies, make series and disguise propaganda as news just as good as the publicly funded channels. And as they have decided to start webcasting, they can as well drop the TV channels and simply put their videos on Youtube. This would leave SVT with nothing at all, as all that’s left is made by SR or UR. Then the fee can be abolished.

  18. 17

    The Swedish proposal is in todays context illegal and against EU legislation. All paid broadcasts must be encrypted and accessible only to subscribers who paid for subscription.
    In Sweden exists many very low-speed internet subscribers and in this context is technically impossible to watch streamed tv-channels. That is why such a proposal must include more details regarding receiving/watching conditions.
    I personally don’t a have any tv-equipment since 2006 when I gave up any tv-equipment and stopped paying for something I never watched.
    I use internet only, I pay for my internet subscription! Such a proposal to pay tv-tax for owning a pc and having internet is illegal, abusive, non-democratic and against todays EU legislation. When such a law will be promulgated by the Riksdag, I’ll attack it at JK JusticeChancellor and EU-tribunal.
    With regards, Zeno Sloim

  19. 18
    relghuar

    Well, in Slovakia we got rid of such useless squabbles like if you have a TV set or computer or whatever :-/
    Public service TV fees are a mandatory part of your electricity bill – so basically if you want to have power, you have to pay licence fees to the government-run TV and radio companies.
    Certainly makes things simpler… and it’s SO much different from the standard protection racket MO.

  20. 19
    hello

    I’m wondering why the system like this wouldn’t be good, like we do here:

    Public television is a public service, like healthcare and education is. I mean.. you wouldn’t necessarily be sick or you go to school, but you’re still paying taxes to fund these.
    The system to fund public TV here is this:
    - The government collects its taxes
    - The Ministry of Culture gets its share
    - Public broadcaster gets its budget from the MoC. And MoC, politicians, no-one has a say on TV or radio programmes – they can’t what to do with the budget. This decision is made by the managing board.

    And.. we do have the channels streamed on the Internet (and no you don’t have to pay something extra. Even if you’re out of the country you can still watch the stream, but yo can watch the programmes that are produced by the public broadcaster). We do have investigative programmes, including which have exposed corruption in the parliament and so on. And the public broadcaster has been criticized by the politicians, but the hosts won’t bother with it. And next to investigative programmes we also have quality entertainment. And the best thing – there’s no ads. Aaaand, surveys show that public TV here is the most watched channel.

    So.. I’m quite happy that there’s public TV who’s task is to inform the people, show quality programmes and if necessary, criticize the politicians, the government, the people on power, and all of this independently. Public TV has totally different function – they don’t have commercial interests, they don’t have the need to get profit.

    But if I had to comment the proposal by the SVT, then.. I think it’s not the right way to do it. What if I don’t watch SVT on my computer? Umm.. what if I use it for playing games only?

    I think there is no perfect way to fund the public television. But then again, I think there’s a need for it, to be a balancer to the private channels with totally different interests.


    Btw, what does this disclaimer mean:
    “This publication is protected under the Constitution of the Kingdom of Sweden.”

    Protected from what? From who? Sorry if this is a stupid question.. so.. don’t hit me in the face :D

    • 19.1
      Scary Devil Monastery

      ““This publication is protected under the Constitution of the Kingdom of Sweden.”
      Protected from what? From who? Sorry if this is a stupid question.. so.. don’t hit me in the face :D”

      Basically it informs the reader that the publication is under journalistic protection. And covered by those laws.

      This has become increasingly important as some nations have adopted laws which enables them to make takedown and block demands by infrastructure providers at the drop of a hat.

      In Latvia or Russia a blog debating homosexuality can be blocked and the owner fined. In the US, going into details of how filesharing happens can be enough to land you with a civil suit. And so on.

      The trend of legislation is currently going in a direction to where you shoot the messenger and not the criminal.

      Rick hasn’t said so, but I get the feeling that he wants to provide as much security as he possibly can in case the legislation changes enough to theoretically include anyone who encourages or “enables” the pirate paradigm.

      Sounds silly?

      A few years back, the EU actually debated whether it should illegalize “terrorist talk”. Opinions, in other words. Although it never came to pass, some wording in proposed legislation both in EU and the US have similarly indicated some form of legal censure to fall on “encouraging” unlawful behavior.

  21. 20
    The High Order Bits

    The arguments here are predicated on a virtual (digital) work not being “ownable”.

    This is obviously not true. I can make a work in any number of mediums, and transfer that to a digital form. I can have that on my own computer, and I can “own” it. No one can make me make it accessible to you in any form.

    I can then choose to provide you access to it for your own experiential pleasure. I can tell you that it will cost you some amount of money for the right access it and experience it. I can make that offer to you with any number of terms and conditions. You can say “yes” and pay, or yo can decide “no”, and move along.

    Where in all this did the fact that I chose to put the work into digital form cause me to lose my ownership rights?

    Anticipating your argument, you will say “when you gave me a copy”. But wait, I gave you that copy under AGREED TO terms and conditions. You accepted them. You did not have to.

    So I believe the fundamental argument of those who believe digital goods are not/cannot be “property” is a simple choice to ignore property rights. It’s that simple. The fact the good in question can be copied perfectly, and one copy continue to be held by the creator, doesn’t mean the item is not “property”.

    Did I lose ownership rights when I digitized my work on my own private computer, giving you the right to access my computer and copy (steal) the work without my permission? No, that was not my intent and I have every right to digitize my works WITHOUT GIVING THE WORK AWAY.

    Did I lose ownership rights when I offered you a COPY (yes, a copy) of said digitized work, with certain terms and conditions? No, we engaged in a legally binding contract. If you then take that work and break the contract, well, you broken our contract, and I’d call that simple theft.

    The argument that it’s only zeros and ones and once it’s on your computer, so what continued rights do I the original creator of the work have? Only the rights you AGREED TO WHEN YOU PURCHASED ACCESS RIGHTS FROM ME. Only those.

    The argument that since it’s only zeros and ones, you have the right to recreate the exact same string of zeros and ones. Yes indeed you do, but NOT by using my work or a copy of my work. Because I chose to expressly claim ownership of THAT version of zero’s and one’s, and YOU AGREED.

    You see, all commerce is based on agreements. All concept of property is based on agreements.

    What happens here is that the traditional concepts of theft get muddled by the thinking “if you still have the original…I didn’t steal from you”. I suppose we could say this is a matter of definition, but in fact I don’t agree. Because I OWN THE ORIGINAL WORK, and as the owner, I GET TO CHOOSE THE DEFINITION. And my definition is “I provide you access only under these terms and conditions”. As the original creator and owner, I GET TO CHOOSE. Not you, me. Not the state, me.

    Now we could choose to enact a law that says that any contract that limits copying and redistribution of digitized goods is illegal. But such becomes the law of the land, I have my right to distribute my content under any terms and conditions I choose (thank goodness).

    The argument I read above about “how dare someone make money over and over by selling multiple copies of their work when they only did the work once” was amusing. Because the opposite view is just as valid: how dare you say I DON’T have the right to do so? Whose rights should trump whose? My rights as the creator of the work? Or your rights as someone who “just wants a copy for free”, because copying is a relatively low cost operation? I come down hard on the side of the rights of the creator, and I think that’s consistent with a general view that private property is acceptable in our society, and that we can execute commerce in property.

    In the big picture, our entire world is “going digital”. Everything is going virtual/digital. And if you want a world where no digital goods can be owned, it’s going to be quite an interesting world indeed. Probably not a very pleasant one, I would guess. You got money? (In digital form, of course.) I have rights to make a perfect copy! Yup, pretty interesting world.

    • 20.1

      The arguments here are predicated on a virtual (digital) work not being “ownable”. This is obviously not true.

      Rather, this is obviously true. The mechanisms that try to treat monopolies as property are standing in direct conflict with property rights AND the contracting rights you describe:

      http://falkvinge.net/2012/12/22/the-copyright-monopoly-stands-in-direct-opposition-to-property-rights/

      http://falkvinge.net/2013/01/05/the-copyright-monopoly-stands-in-opposition-to-freedoms-of-contract/

      There are utilitarian motives to justify the monopolies, but the moral ones do not work, simply because their logic don’t hold together.

      You most certainly don’t get to write the law concerning my property just because you created something that I use, as you imply in your response, no matter how assertive a tone you use.

      Cheers,
      Rick

    • 20.2
      Scary Devil Monastery

      “Did I lose ownership rights when I offered you a COPY (yes, a copy) of said digitized work, with certain terms and conditions? No, we engaged in a legally binding contract. If you then take that work and break the contract, well, you broken our contract, and I’d call that simple theft.”

      Let’s say person A purchases a copy from person B. Person C obtains a copy from person A and person B objects that person A has violated the ToS. This is your example above and so far we’re on the right track here.

      Then person C makes copies to persons D, E, F and G.
      May I ask where, exactly, you managed to sign any form of contract, implied or not, with ANY of those people?

      The answer is, of course, that everyone else, except person A, you have no control over unless we assume that you can exert veto rights over property which does not belong to you. That is all that copyright is.

      And it’s insane.

      “Everything is going virtual/digital. And if you want a world where no digital goods can be owned, it’s going to be quite an interesting world indeed.”

      Like it or not, interesting or not, that world is what will happen. Europe before the invention of the printing press is radically different from Europe afterwards. And anyone who was at the time religious or in holy orders would have claimed the apocalypse had come, had they seen what difference a mere century did to the established social structure.

      “You got money? (In digital form, of course.) I have rights to make a perfect copy! Yup, pretty interesting world.”

      If you could pay your rent with a Justin Bieber copy then yes. Otherwise, not so much. But it’s telling that your entire rant has been one long diatribe of angry outbursts folded around one or two monumental misconceptions.

      Most tellingly the one where your entire basis of argument hinges on you being able to sign involuntary third parties into a legally binding contract.

      I can’t rightly say whether you are ranting out of ignorant anger or are trying to pull a semantic shell game here, but that’s quite frankly beside the point.

      What is not beside the point is that you are somehow confusing copies (which we claim are worthless) with currency (which is not). And believing that somehow makes the concluding finisher for you.

      It does not.

    • 20.3
      relghuar

      “Where in all this did the fact that I chose to put the work into digital form cause me to lose my ownership rights?”

      Exactly nowhere! And you still own, and are in perfect control of, your work in the digital form, residing safely on your own storage media of choice. Every evening in your bed you can watch the light shine off the 0 and 1 bits burnt on YOUR CD or DVD, or you can inspect corresponding magnetic fluctuations on YOUR HDD. You can even lock it in a safe and not let anyone see it, ever. Enjoy in whatever way you want!

      But the moment you show me your work, and I’ve MANUFACTURED my own version on the media of my choice – and my property of course – that is MY digital work. Screw you if you want to prevent me from doing whatever I want with it – show it to a friend to allow him to create his own version, or burn it on my own shiny CD/DVD, or enjoy specific magnetic fluctuations on my own HDD!

      It might arguably be your right to be identified as the one who created an original INSPIRATION for that specific bit pattern – just like it would be considered fair and proper for an artist replicating someone’s statue to identify who’s statue he copied (if it’s not famous enough on its own). But that is about all the right I’m willing to give to you – and if you run crying to a mob boss (or collection society or government, semantics be damned) to get his goons (laywers, police, semantics again) to break my legs (steal my money, throw me to jail, blablabla…) because you don’t like what I do with MY property, then you are a mobster to me, and I will treat you with the same respect I would treat a mobster.

      You think you’re an artist?? So the fuck what?? So’re millions of people on youtube! So am I actually! You think anyone will cry if you decide creating is not “economically viable” for you anymore? Screw you!! Get a job like everyone else! Millions of people are more than willing to step in your place and create IN THEIR OWN FREE TIME the very moment you’ll stop preventing them with your mob practices! All you’re actually doing is wasting space!!

      So GET LOST already!

      (uff, I really got carried away on this one)

  22. 21
    Martin

    It is not about digital or not digital, it is about information itself. The difference is that digital copying exposes problems in more obvious way, but you can face almost same situation in more traditional situations too. People having good enough memory can make more-or-less exact copy without any ‘digital’ aid (lets say read a book once and than tell it to others). For rest of us, there are ‘digital’ or ‘analog’ aids (cameras, photocopiers, computers) serving very same purpose.
    The most obvious problem of your idea of agreements and licensing is that our brain does not work in a way lawyers want. You can not separate informations according to the licenses in your brain, you can not forget a fact because of license expires. :) It is quite opposite. Your brain will mix every information it has regardless of the source and licenses. Honestly, there is nothing like entirely your own idea. Everything, you are thinking about, is based on inputs your brain is continuously collecting from surrounding.
    Another problem is such license could cover first transfer of information (maybe few of them), but information will spread uncontrolled sooner or later. If I am going to pay you for the access to ‘your’ information, I want to make use of it, of course. It is stupid to pay for something non-utilisable. And because I am neither military general nor intelligence service spy :), I am going to use it in common life, to incorporate it into the my own view of the world etc. Eventually, someone (who does not pay his fee for todays newspapers) will hear what I am talking about, someone will see (or make a picture of) the house, I have build according to the plans you ‘owns’ and have licensed to me etc.
    This is the most important reason, you can not own information once released. It is simply because owning something in its very fundamental meaning stands for having control over it. You do not own a (physical) thing you give to someone else (regardless of you do not like the way he is using it and you want it back). In the similar way you do not own information spreading around the world on its own.
    But owning things and earning your living can be pretty independent things. To stop insisting the idea of ownership of non-scare things doesn’t mean the world gets broken for sure. :) Simplifying a bit, if you are paying for some goods, you are paying for work invested in it and scare resources used (damaged etc. during fabrication). No need to compensate for work and resources, no need to pay any price. So digital ‘goods’ circulating free of the charge is no problem at all. There are almost no resources and no work consumed on making a copy. All you need is to come with system to ‘compensate’ people putting their effort into making original product. Paying per ‘copy’ works in physical world up to the some extend (but not perfectly because all these ‘design/brand name stealing’ stupidities today). It is obviously not working in digital world. OK, I do not know working scheme, but not knowing new good system is no reason to advocate the old not working system.

  23. 22

    Today, Sweden’s famed “Free Speech ISP” Bahnhof started offering a “TV-stopper” service to its subscribers. In the customer dashboard they added a button saying “Block SVT” (Swedish Public Television). A certificate is automatically issued in the name of the subscriber where Bahnhof certifies that access is blocked on ISP level for that particular customer. I guess it is sort of tongue-in-cheek since they say that the procedure has not been legally tried in a case but that it might suffice to claim that the computer is unable to receive programming when subscribing to that free “service”.

    Press release (in Swedish): http://bahnhof.se/filestorage/userfiles/Pressmeddelande20130125.pdf

  24. 23
    Roman

    What’s always irked me about the TV license is why it is collected only from people who watch TV. If the point is to fund minority interest programming that can’t be properly funded otherwise, tax *everyone*, even people who don’t watch TV. If the point is to tax those who watch the said programs, then, well, allow me to subscribe to Sky One without paying BBC!

    I have no problem with either solution. I can accept a government subsidy paid out of my taxes. I can accept a channel that’s entirely pay-for. But this style of TV license just simply feels incredibly unfair to me.

  25. 24

    One way or another, this is just a way for a government to generate revenue.
    In The Netherlands they have abolished “Kijk en luistergeld” in 2000, and raised the lowest income tax band with 1,1% to compensate for the lost income. And they don’t need to enforce the licence fees anymore.

  26. 25
    ISP_help

    ISPs in Sweden should block the IP address of such webcasts to make it impossible for people to receive the mafia TV channel! =D

  27. 26
    fight back

    A lot of people are angry.I’ve been writing a lot about this.A lot of FB people and twitter people are angry but they will be the first victims since they are into social networking.I´ve allways kept a low profile on internet.No social networking.I never use my real name.I asked my ISP for a secret phone number so KirunaKGB can´t telephone me.Letters can be lost.They can´t get into my house without me allowing it, so they can´t even reach my flat.I use Ghostery in my browser and Stop social and delete cookies often.Last time I bought a computer was 3 years ago so it is broken or sold since this is registered.My ISP they are not allowed to ask if I have an Internet connection.The best thing they have no real wage so they get payed by every victim they can get on the hook.If you make it hard fo them it will be hard money to get if you make it easy for them it will be easy money.I have never payed a license since I moved from my mother in 1972 so what can they prove?Nothing.If you are stubborn they will give up.My conclusion is if you are into FB and social networking you are a loser also if you use your real name.You won´t have a chance in court, the others will win a courtcase since they haven`t left any traces on internet that will hold as proofs.Friends,Library small chance.Of the 10% of households that doesn´t pay some say 70% are cheaters and 30% don`t watch TV,some say it is 50/50 who knows.Taxes are nightmare since the principles of public TV are broken.Those who watches TV pays those who doesn`t don`t.This is public TV and it is allright to me.When greed is more important than theese principles it is not allright to me and I will fight them.Iceland no porn.Moralists.Germany nothing to strife for.Finland no thanks.Electricity bills no thanks I pay so much taxes on them allready.Not even me think that TV watchers are that stupid that they can`t log in or use a code but that is SVT:s opinion.FB works for idiots why not SVT play.

  28. 27
    Luccas

    Look in Germany it’s even worse, this year(2013) a new law comes into effect that sais “if you own a place to live” you are required to pay 217€ a year in “public broadcast tax”, even if your “place” is a tent on the side of a mountain or if you live in your car! I personally don’t pay and wait for them to sue me if they dare.

  29. 28
    Anonymous

    This is something I cannot explain by anything but greed. It is a mafia-protection scheme in disguise – “we are giving you the posisbility to watch TV programme, you have to pay us”. F..k off – don’t give me this ‘valuable’ offer, keep it behind a paywall. Don’t force it on me, I am not a goose for foie gras.

  30. 29
    Wendy B

    This article is slightly incorrect as regards the BBC, and is totally missing the point as it relates to Sweden.

    In the U.K. you can own a TV, or 10,000 TV’s. You only have to pay for a TV license IF YOU RECEIVE LIVE BROADCASTS OF TELEVISION PROGRAMMES ON THAT TV, OR 10,000 TVS.

    If all you do is watch DVDs on it, then you do NOT have to pay a TV license.

    And THAT is the root of the issue here. Swedes need to wake up, THINK, and stop being so fucking passive all the time.

    If you walk into a supermarket, there is lots of food there. It would be easy to just pick some up, put it in your bag when no one is looking, and walk out without paying. That is stealing. 99.99999999% of people don’t do that. Why? Because 99.999999999% of people are not thieves.

    But the Swedish approach, the sledgehammer to crack a nut, says EVERYONE is a thief, and therefore EVERYONE is guilty, in advance, and EVERYONE must pay up. We DON’T CARE whether you actually watch TV or not. Pay up.

    I’m not a lawyer, but somewhere along the line this absolutely MUST be illegal, to demand a TV license fee just because you have access to the internet, and some CUNT TV company has decided to allow anyone to watch it’s programmes online, with no form of account or verification required. That is THEIR problem, not society’s.

    Sweden is a fucking disgrace in this regard. Sweden is portrayed around the world as a bastion of fairness and equality, and of being oh so advanced and civilised. The opposite is in fact the truth, and Swedes just wave their little flags and eat up the propaganda and bullshit. You live in a Nazi fascist state. Accept it, or rise up and end this tyranny.

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Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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