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Grabbing your money because I can

Copyright Industry Demands, Gets Levies For Every XBox, Playstation Sold

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Copyright Monopoly

Copyright Monopoly

The copyright industry has decreed in Sweden that it will now collect levies for every XBox and Playstation sold – about €10 ($12) per unit. This levy is the “blank media” levy, originally used to compensate for private music copying from vinyl records to blank cassettes, that has crept over all boundaries. It is hard, not to say impossible, to justify the fairness in a single mother having to pay a levy to the richest rock stars when she buys a Playstation for her kids.

The demand – which has legal support – hit like a bombshell on Swedish markets yesterday. The copyright industry is demanding levies for four new classes of electronics products: ordinary computers with hard drives, internal hard drives, tablets, and game consoles with hard drives. They have previously enacted levies for external hard drives, USB sticks, blank CDs and DVDs, and much more.

This means that the copyright industry in Sweden specifically gets to enact a tax on every tablet, every computer, and every game console sold, since they contain internal persistent memory which could – in theory – be used to store music, which is under the copyright monopoly.

This legal levy mechanism is a remnant from the compact cassette days, when people were (legally) copying from vinyl to cassette. The copyright industry went berserk at the time, throwing tantrums about how it was unfair that their monopoly didn’t cover this particular copying. There were huge campaigns about how “home taping was killing music”, which exactly nobody took seriously.

(The band The Dead Kennedys famously reprinted the dumb slogan on the back side of their In God We Trust, Inc. cassette as “Home Taping is Killing Record Industry Profits”, and added “We left this side blank, so you can help.”)

However, politicians in the 1970s did the crucial mistake of throwing some money to the copyright industry to get them to shut up. Thus, they enacted a blank media levy where every blank (recordable) cassette tape sold would be taxed with a small amount that would be distributed to already-established artists. In other words, the struggling artists who bought blank tapes to make demos were to pay a tax to the richest successful artists and to the gatekeeper middleman system.

The blank media levy is not a compensation for private copying that violates laws and the copyright monopoly. The levy is an industry compensation for private legal copying that falls outside of the monopoly.

Did you get that? Let’s take it again: the copyright industry is “compensated” insanely well at the expense of single parents and innovative startups for the fact that there are nooks and crannies where the copyright monopoly doesn’t reach.

Now tell me – what other industries do you know of that get extensive legal protection in law for their business model, and then get compensated with a private taxation right for the fact that they didn’t get as far-reaching legal monopolies as possible?

This doesn’t even take into account the abysmally terrible political leadership when enacting these levies in the first place. The message that got home to the copyright industry when the blank media levy was enacted was “throw worse tantrums, and you’ll get more taxpayer money”. This has been a consistent behavior since, and predictably so.

The blank media tax is a cancer in our economy. There is no justice in a single mother paying the richest artists and exorbitantly paid lawyers in the middleman system when she gets a Playstation for her kids. There is no justice in poor artists being forced to pay a system that works to keep them out of the market. There is no justice in innovative tech startups being taxed by a dying industry dinosaur that uses the money to fight the same innovative startups.

The blank media levy is a gross abomination from every angle. It needs to be abolished, and it needs to be abolished 90 seconds ago.

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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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56

  1. 1
    Joel

    I didn’t knew about this, I thought Spain was the only country paying a surplus “canon” fee for every recordable device. I kinda expeted it more coming from good ol’ corrupt Spain, but I’m surprised this is happening also in Sweden!

  2. 2
    TG

    The irony is that these devices are DRMed to the eyeballs, and probably it is already illegal to adjust them to a state where they even could be used to store data other than that approved by the manufacturers (at least under the DMCA, but I don’t know about Swedish law), not to mention beyond the capability of most customers.

    Also, where exactly does this money go? If it goes to the producers of ‘copyrighted content’, then anybody who has ever written a blog post, posted a photo, or uploaded a video should get a cut, because we all have copyrights (whether we want them or not). Presumably the money goes to the cartels with the cosiest links to government.

    • 2.1
      TG

      PS Rick, I find it amusing that you post a link to explain to younger readers what a cassette tape is. It’s a reminder that I’m starting to get old.

      • 2.1.1

        It’s a bit refreshing of one’s perspective, isn’t it? Teenagers today – those with the most time to fight this (and the most at stake) – have never seen a cassette tape. That reminds me, I should probably link “vinyl” too…

    • 2.2

      The DMCA has a European equivalent known as the InfoSoc directive, at least as far as legal protection of anti-circumvention devices go. Being a EU-level directive, it must be implemented in every member state.

      (This is a key difference between the US and the EU: a federal law in the US is ready as it stands, whereas EU issues “directives” which don’t take effect until a state writes the directive into state law there. Directives usually give some leeway in implementation – for example, stating an upper or lower limit, or both.)

      Cheers,
      Rick

    • 2.3
      Anonymous

      There’s only one collection society for the blank media levy in Sweden I believe. Of course the members of this club are quite exclusive. Only the biggest media companies is allowed to profit from the work others performed in the design, manufacture and distribution of the taxed products.

      I’m beginning to wonder if there might be possible to measure the level of corruption in various countries based upon how many of these private taxation laws it has, and the amount of money being transferred by means of these? There might be a correlation?

  3. 3
    Caleb Lanik

    These levies disgust me. They make no sense, should never have been enacted and set a horrible precedent ever since that anything that threatens these obsolete companies must have a millstone placed around their necks.

  4. 4
    Thomas

    I’m very surprised that it wasn’t already the case.
    In countries like France, absolutely everything you can record on has this tax applied on (with some of the highest rates in Europe as well!), including GPS with internal memory…

    As an example, here the official document describing the different tax rates per device/support:
    http://www.copiefrance.fr/files/content/sites/cf-fr/files/declaration_tarif/tarifs_ENG_2013.pdf

    • 4.1
      Chris

      Canada is basically the same way too.

      • 4.1.1
        Kevin

        Canada’s taxation is out of control though. Places like Norway may have ridiculous single tax types, but in Canada we have HST in some provinces, excise tacked on top of that, income tax, multiple levels of property tax…

        Where the fuck does this tax go is my question. All the government seems to be doing is bending over and taking orders from the Obama admin.

  5. 5
    AF

    If legal copying is indeed inflicting costs or losses to their business, why don’t they just increase the price of their product?
    The local racket in Portugal (SPA) has been pushing lately for the same type of levies to be extended to digital media and devices, fortunately they have been denied it (not thanks to our politicians, though).

    • 5.1
      Timwi

      > why don’t they just increase the price of their product?

      Because then fewer people will buy it. Every product has an optimal price where the total profit (number of people willing to buy it times the price) is at a maximum. Determining that optimal price is not easy, but marketing experts can do it. Taxes and levies on unrelated products are quite successful at extracting more money from people beyond that optimum because people don’t compensate for it by buying less of the product that the tax/levy ostensibly supports. In other words, when you see a CD for price X, all you think about is whether the CD is worth X, not X plus the taxes/levies you paid on that HDD a month ago, the stash of blank DVDs last week and the Xbox you gave to your nephew for his birthday.

  6. 6
    NM

    I’d be interested on the implications of such a levy. Does paying such levy imply immunity from any unauthorized (by the parties that cash the levy) copying act?

  7. [...] Copyright Industry Demands, Gets Levies For Every XBox, Playstation Sold [...]

  8. 7
    Björn Persson

    What do you mean, 90 seconds? This private tax needs to be abolished 30 years ago!

  9. 8
    CAPTAINBARFBAG

    I just wanted to point out that most musicians actually don’t get anything for their records except for a small royalty. It’s the concerts that’s where they make their money. T he other thing is the only way to combat this is to devalue money completely if people begin to throw away all their money how can it have any value besides its just paper anyway in reality their is nothing backing it anyway.

  10. 9
    DannyUfonek

    Getting rid of anti-pirates is the first step to economic recovery of Europe, as they are cluttering the judicial system, blocking innovation, making technology more expensive, and decreasing competitivness of our continent.

    Why has nobody thought of getting rid of them so far?

    • 9.1
      Timwi

      Lots of people have thought of it. It’s just that the people who are in power (those who have the ability to make those changes) don’t want to because it keeps them in power. Coming up with the idea is easy; it’s getting influential people to give up their power for the common good of Europe that’s the hard part.

  11. [...] copyright levies Copyright Industry Demands, Gets Levies For Every XBox, Playstation Sold – Falkvinge on Infopolicy wtf? chrisquigley.com MG on Facebook / YouTube Got [...]

  12. 10
    Come on bro

    Wow you Europeans just roll over take it up the ass.

    • 10.1
      bollard

      Our governments are strong armed by the US into implementing these laws, what can we realistically do about it ? storm the bastille?

      • 10.1.1
        Anonymous

        Vote against it. Vote against people that are willing to give up your rights.
        Vote for those that will defend them. Get others to do the same. Get others to get others to do the same.
        You have the power, you just have to seize it, and I am not talking about violence I am talking about political action, democracy.

  13. [...] Copyright Industry Demands, Gets Levies For Every XBox, Playstation Sold [...]

  14. 11
    Anonymous

    like others, i wouldn’t mind paying this levy so much if i was then allowed to use copyrighted material on the console. as, from what i gather, this is gonna be prevented, why should anyone pay for what you CANT do? and even if i could do so, if i were caught with copyrighted material, i would still be prosecuted. talk about having money extorted out of you! if i were to try this tactic, i would be in front of a judge before i had time to say anything!

  15. 12
    Pinjata

    I’d much rather see this levy removed but till then it’s important to remember that the levy also grant us some rights. I don’t know about other nations but here in Sweden recording music, TV and films for personal use is legal. For instance I’m recording music of Spotify removing any commercials they have and it’s perfectly legal!

    • 12.1

      What makes you think the two are connected? They’re not legal because you’re paying an additional levy, they’re legal because they’re legal.

    • 12.2
      Anonymous

      Those rights are good.
      But the levy is bad.
      You should have the rights but not the levy, ideally.
      And isn’t that what we should all want the law to be? The ideal? The best it can be?

  16. 13

    Someone check if wax is taxed.

    “Wax reels will ruin live concerts!”

  17. 14
    Anonymous

    Jesus! is there nothing that Sweden wont do to humiliate itself over for the USA entertainment industries? what is the next thing going to be to take the piss out of it’s own citizens? i would like to know who is behind this sudden thinking to protect those industries at all costs! it has to be someone who is seriously tied to them or has received a serious amount as a back hander from them. surely no one in their right mind would risk losing the high level position they must be in, unless it was worth their while, to do so much to hurt their own people in preference to aiding another country, would they?

  18. 15
    Anonymous

    This is dumb.
    They are just spoiling them more, it will never stop. It never made sense but it just keeps getting more and more ridiculous.
    It has to stop.

  19. 16
    Ivan

    Correct argumentation but unnecessarily repeated. Article could be shortened by a few paragraphs.

    Btw: Blank Media Tax is an abomination that needs to die.

  20. 17
    Hermes

    If copying is illegal how is it that the copyright industry is allowed to make money from it? If they are already compensated by this tax, why are they allowed to sue copyrigth infringers. In my eyes this is just greed, pure and evil greed.

    • 17.1
      gurra

      Yes it is a monopoly : A restriction of business (economic freedom) and since the advent of internet also restriction on freedom of speech (a democratic right recognized by at least the UN, US and EU).

      1. Copyright monopolists pay for something. They expect new work to be done for them. A new meal cooked or a hair cut or a train ride or a concert arranged or whatever. Actually requires new resources and new work.

      2. Someone pays copyright monopolists money. Now they expect to be able to manufacture a copy for free, and hand it over without having to do any new work.

      And they seriously expect people doing all the work in (1) to accept this way of exchanging money in the long run.

  21. 18
    YesToPP

    Here in Australia they found blank media levies to be unconstitutional.

    You still have to pay a fee if you have a sound system in your store though, even if you only play free-to-air radio on your system. The copyright mob keeps squeezing out as much cash as they can at every avenue they can, too bad for them us Aussies do not take ALL the crap they come up with.

    They tried forcing ISP’s to cough up names behind IP addresses, and iiNet took the bastards to court and crushed them.

    • 18.1
      CumDumpster1999

      Oh believe me, I don’t think that *anybody* Australian or not puts up with this crap. When you deal with legal recourse on this level in such a manner that manipulation of legal specifications are to be implemented or otherwise, it has to do with corruption.

      Unfortunately, most of the US is a corrupt, embezzling, bloated, bunch of old fucks that could care less about anyone under their income bracket.

  22. 19
    DeluxeSoyage

    “There were huge campaigns about how “home taping was killing music”, which exactly nobody took seriously.”

    I worked in a second-hand bookshop before we closed down a few weeks back. A random customer pulled out one of the LPs we had with that on and said “that was a load of old crap, wasn’t it?”

  23. 20
    note

    You forgot to mention one important part of the levy.
    It is (at least in CZ) per gigabyte, enacted when no medium had 1GB of capacity.
    With the TB capacities today, it’s starting to bite into price percentage considerably…

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About The Author

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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