Why A Copyright Levy ('Music Tax') Is A Bad Idea: Unnecessary Attempt To Retain Old Power Structures

from the creative-destruction dept

While a variety of folks have, over the years, suggested some form of a "private copying levy" or "internet levy" to tax users and hand it over to folks in the entertainment industry to distribute, we've spent a lot of time explaining why this is a terrible idea. The key point that we've explained is that this creates a distorted market that actually harms new business models, by driving (by taxation) money from those models right back into the old industry types who refuse to innovate. Rick Falkvinge has now taken a stab at exploring the issue and appears to agree, noting that the whole thing is an attempt to keep the old structures of the industry in power, to block the new centers of power (which often come directly from the artists):
It is about a previous elite -- bordering on nobility -- which has lost its privileges, an elite which has been replaced by indie artists of all genres and new distribution methods, and where this elite is seeking to restore its former status of special by an ability to tax the public.


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    crade (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 10:57am

    Also, it's a bad idea because it's trying to force people to pay money not only that they don't want to pay, but specifically *because* they are unwilling to pay on their own. It's like the opposite of free enterprise, forcing consumers to support those they least want to (because they are having trouble making money... um duh) instead of those that are actually working on satisfying customers.

     

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      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 11:38am

      Re:

      Gods yes. It makes me crazy when otherwise sensible people propose a tax to support a dying industry, simply to get them to shut up.

       

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      CommonSense (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 2:00pm

      Re:

      It's similar to taxing them, without offering them any sort of representation to have a say in the matter... For some reason, I think an historical war could have started over something similar... I can't know for sure though, because apparently being an American in today's society means that I have to blind myself to historically relevant facts and stop trying to learn from my predecessors' lessons...

       

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    fogbugzd (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 11:47am

    Who gets the money?

    The big question is, "Who gets the money?" How much actually goes to artists, and how much is kept by the gatekeepers. Second, which artists get the money? Chances are that small and new artists will see very little of it. Every royalty collection system I am aware of gives a disproportionate share to the large, established groups. Among other things, the large established groups generally are represented directly or indirectly by the gatekeepers themselves, so an additional share of the money that technically goes to the artists ends up flowing back to the gatekeepers.

    Any proponent of a media collection tax should lay out a detailed plan up front describing how the money will be distributed.

     

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      MrWilson, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:13pm

      Re: Who gets the money?

      But that means that they'd have to show that most of the money goes to the gatekeepers with the obsolete business models and doing so would inhibit the adoption of such a proposal. How dare you try to undermine their sneakiness with openness and transparency!

       

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      PaulT (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 2:01pm

      Re: Who gets the money?

      "Second, which artists get the money?"

      This has always been the sticking point with me. If I have a tax taken from me because I listen to an independent band, I want it to go to that band, not whatever X Factor winner happens to get dragged in front of the cameras that year, or whatever tabloid-baiting moron is releasing a new single that week. Until accuracy can be guaranteed (and the music industry has a pathetic record with this), no dice.

       

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    anons, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:03pm

    assumes everyone is a criminal

     

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    Rekrul, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:27pm

    Also, would this mean that anyone paying the copyright tax would be immune to legal action for downloading copyrighted material? If I'm forced to pay an extra fee on my monthly bill, I better be getting something in return.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:41pm

      Re:

      Probably not, but I know I'd use it an excuse to download more content. I mean, I'm paying for it already, might as well take advantage of those funds!

       

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    John Doe, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:38pm

    I am actually for this tax...

    I am for very few taxes, but this one makes sense to me. Throw a buck or two per month on the bill and then I will be "licensed" to download every movie, song and book man has ever created and maybe a few he hasn't. I won't have to feel like a dirty pirate since I am "paying" in advance.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

      Re: I am actually for this tax...

      Feeling a certain way and being prosecuted another doesn't really reconcile things. If there were some kind of nominal, unlimited download subscription, I suspect nearly everyone would sign up for it. This tax, sadly, would not be such an agreement, nor would it be optional. It's lose-lose; you're paying money you wouldn't otherwise pay to support an industry you wouldn't otherwise support.

       

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        John Doe, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:50pm

        Re: Re: I am actually for this tax...

        Yes, I agree with you and was only being sarcastic. I will say though, I don't currently pirate anything but if a tax like this does get put onto my broadband bill, I will become the largest pirate this world has ever seen. (insert evil laugh here)

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 1:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: I am actually for this tax...

          Yeah, I violate copyright quite often, and should a tax come along, I'd damn sure find a way to violate it even more!

           

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        Mike42 (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 2:05pm

        Re: Re: I am actually for this tax...

        I'm already paying the "Optional" tax. It's called a NetFlix subscription.

        Can't download everything, but there's more stuff than I have time to watch...

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:46pm

      Re: I am actually for this tax...

      Feeling a certain way and being prosecuted another doesn't really reconcile things. If there were some kind of nominal, unlimited download subscription, I suspect nearly everyone would sign up for it. This tax, sadly, would not be such an agreement, nor would it be optional. It's lose-lose; you're paying money you wouldn't otherwise pay to support an industry you wouldn't otherwise support.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:47pm

      Re: I am actually for this tax...

      Feeling a certain way and being prosecuted another doesn't really reconcile things. If there were some kind of nominal, unlimited download subscription, I suspect nearly everyone would sign up for it. This tax, sadly, would not be such an agreement, nor would it be optional. It's lose-lose; you're paying money you wouldn't otherwise pay to support an industry you wouldn't otherwise support.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:49pm

      Re: I am actually for this tax...

      The money wouldn't get distributed fairly (e.g. see how ascap distributions work). In this day, where every teenage garage band can publish music and every Mom can makes movies, how do you determine who gets the money?

       

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      kyle clements (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:52pm

      Re: I am actually for this tax...

      And what about those who do not download movies, songs and books?

      If they don't want it, why should they have to pay for it?

      I'm a struggling independent artist who does a chunk of my work online. Is it fair that I should have to pay a levy to the big, successful, established artists, just to be able to do my own work?

      Let the failed ideas fail.

       

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      DavidB, Mar 11th, 2011 @ 4:07pm

      Re: I am actually for this tax...

      But what if the 'tax' is proportional to the amount you download? Bet you wouldn't be so keen on that!

       

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    Steve, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:52pm

    If this started to go anywhere consumers would probably get one big ally, Apple. Their entire business model right now is based off of the iTunes/App Store. You give people the right* to download what ever they want anyone selling those goods successfully will be finished.

    *we all know that the **AA would never agree that the tax would allow legal downloads of anything. Double dip for even more money!

     

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    Josef Anvil (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 1:01pm

    Why???

    I'm trying to understand why there should be a broadband tax for the entertainment industry. It seems that if one industry can claim losses because of the internet and demand a tax, that there are other industries that can do the same. So where does it end?

    Once the process begins, each new broadband tax will just get easier to pass. The government will take their cut and the industry organizations will take theirs, and the price of broadband will steadily increase to the highest point that the market can bear.

    And don't think that the telcos and cable companies will not want their piece of the pie for any tax that they are billing their customers.

     

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    The eejit (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 1:03pm

    But who will feed the children of corn-farming Record label execs!!!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 1:18pm

    So...

    Anybody suddenly feel the urge to dump a bunch of CDs in a river?

     

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      CommonSense (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 2:16pm

      Re: So...

      Sure!! As soon as I finish ripping all my old CD's to my new external hard drive, I'll bring them all along!! Should we use the Boston Harbor again, or is there a river that runs through Hollywood??

       

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        ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 2:42pm

        Re: Re: So...

        Should we use the Boston Harbor again, or is there a river that runs through Hollywood??

        There are a couple, they call them the Los Angeles River and its tributaries...you've seen them on TV or in the movies before...they have cement banks and a cement floor, and there is usually a very small stream running through them, and sometimes they have cars chasing each other at high speed through them. We call them flood channels. However, they might not work well if you want to put them on a boat first, and then dump them into the river from that boat.

        Los Angeles is pretty much a desert, and Hollywood is in Los Angeles. But during the spring time the flood channels get a little deeper due to melting ice in the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains.

         

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          The eejit (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 2:51pm

          Re: Re: Re: So...

          We could always put them in Alcatraz, for crimes against ears.

           

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            ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 2:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: So...

            We could always put them in Alcatraz, for crimes against ears.

            Alcatraz is in San Fransisco, about 500 mi north of Hollywood...but it would certainly be a good place to put them. Only the tourists would see them, but luckily they wouldn't have to hear them.

             

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    Daemon_ZOGG, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 3:51pm

    "..Copyright Levy ('Music Tax') Is A Bad Idea"

    In whatever country it may get approved in, it should add at least another million or more people to the bit-torrent and black-market scene. A tax to keep a dead business model alive? I don't think so! Approved or not, the "masses" will find a path of least resistance.

     

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    Kaden (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 7:12pm

    Ya gotta hand it to the major labels... they really had a good thing going, and they kept it up for a shockingly long time. They were absolutely pervasive in figuring out how to suck money out of any musician with even the vaguest aspiration of success, with the blank media levy being their way of grabbing cash from unsigned artists trying to promote themselves.

    The term we had for them back in the 'Home Taping is Killing Music' days is 'Fucking Fuckers'. Still appropriate 30 years on.

     

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    Rob Labossiere, Mar 10th, 2011 @ 9:37pm

    Yeah but...

    It has yet to be proven that artists can make their way directly to an audience big enough to sustain them. The public likes their books and music popular and their artists rare and to achieve that, intermediaries are still pivotal. Why begrudge them them a just share? I agree collective administrations fail to leverage what authors/artists have to offer, but isn't that because their boards of directors include both authors and producers? Who will create the kind of "agency" (not in a corporate sense but as a verb) that actually, rather than in a token way, puts droit d'auteur first?

     

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      The eejit (profile), Mar 11th, 2011 @ 4:13am

      Re: Yeah but...

      Not these morons. They like their freeloading ways. Intermediaries should, ideally, become less like gatekeepers and more like guides, utilising their experience and leveraging that in order to make a smaller, but surer, profit.

      For example, for $100, you can get decent sound-sampling software. For the sound producer, they have the experience to leverage that into something that sounds dramatically better than an amateur would.

      IT's not that the labels don't deserve to get paid, so much as they need to actually work for it.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2011 @ 6:13am

    Where is the interest of society in all of this?
    This is certainly not in the interest of society, this is certainly not in the interest of a free market, this is certainly not in the interest of capitalism, so what a f'ing levy(tax) is for?

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh, Mar 11th, 2011 @ 4:02pm

    Music levy

    I agree.

    Suppose that someone proposed that a union be allowed to levy a tax on all potential users of the union offerings, say, electrical work, and that they distribute it to the workers (which would result in massive salaries for the union bosses and no real benefit for the workers, but I digress).

    People would be outraged at such an idea - but the only difference is electrical work is useful, and music is purely for entertainment (if any).

     

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    DavidB, Mar 11th, 2011 @ 4:09pm

    It's not a terrible idea, but getting people to pay for the valuable content they actually consume would be better. Oh, wait... isn't that what copyright is for?

     

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    Rick Steffen, Mar 16th, 2011 @ 8:35am

    Music Taxes

    Generaly, I am against taxes. However, with hundreds of thousands of $$ invested in my 6 CDs, representing my lifes quest, I remain open to those ideas that would level the playing field. Previously, the corporate giants would cherry pick the top and leave the rest of us out. I just registered for SoundExchange and we will see how that works out. Although Apple I tunes and Sirius has been good to me, I still think there are many hurdles to overcome in the radio broadcast industry. If they don't open up and stop this "syndicated list" nonsense, they will become dinasaurs in the next ten years. I enjoy a freebee now and then but stepping back with the artist in mind, Let's get real and pay for our big boy pants.

     

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