Germany Increases 'You Are All Pirates' Tax On Solid State Media By 2000%

from the how-not-to-win-friends dept

Techflaws alerts us to an announcement by ZPÜ, the organization responsible for setting the levy on storage media in Germany, that fees will rise rather significantly (German original). For a USB stick with a capacity greater than 4 Gbytes, the tax would increase from 8 eurocents (about 10 cents) to 1.56 euros (about $1.93), a rise of 1850%; for a memory card bigger than 4 Gbytes, the fee would go up from 8 eurocents to 1.95 euros (about $2.42), an increase of 2338%.

No justification for such a huge jump was offered, but since one of the constituent members of ZPÜ is the German music collection society GEMA, which seems to have an unlimited sense of entitlement when it comes to demanding money from the public, that’s hardly a surprise.

In particular, no rationale is given for including memory cards, which are used almost exclusively in cameras to record content produced by end-users — so the idea that the levy is somehow justified as a way of compensating creators for revenue supposedly “lost” by piracy is manifestly absurd.

Basically, this outdated and insulting approach treats all Germans using digital storage as if they were pirates. Of course, arbitrarily imposing 2000% tax hikes on storage is probably the quickest way to turn them into something much more dangerous to GEMA and its friends: ardent supporters of the German Pirate Party….

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Comments on “Germany Increases 'You Are All Pirates' Tax On Solid State Media By 2000%”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Sharing now legal?

This is not a tax to compensate for piracy this is a tax to steal money from the public without good reason without giving nothing in return.

When some artist or company claims people get things without paying they should be reminded that people already paid for it, in the form of various taxes(levies) and asked why that is not compensation enough.

Anonymous Coward says:

No justification for such a huge jump was offered, but since one of the constituent members of ZP? is the German music collection society GEMA, which seems to have an unlimited sense of entitlement when it comes to demanding money from the public, that’s hardly a surprise.

And speaking of huge jumps…..

This is a new low for you Moody, or is now just Charlie McCarthy?

Anonymous Coward says:

In particular, no rationale is given for including memory cards, which are used almost exclusively in cameras to record content produced by end-users — so the idea that the levy is somehow justified as a way of compensating creators for revenue supposedly “lost” by piracy is manifestly absurd.

Tsk, tsk. You didn’t notice that the Lib-Ray standard Kickstarter campaign suddenly managed to raise the last 2K just in time? That was GEMA, making sure it has justification (Lib-Ray will be a way to distribute (possibly infringing) HD content, based on memory cards…).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Rebellion Coming Soon

Why compete for a chance at someone’s business when you can make it illegal for every member of the public not to pay you.

That remark may sound flippant, but sadly this is exactly the way much of the world under Corporate Fascism is headed.

You will simply be taxed to support the corporate state, no matter how miserable, unproductive, obsolete and undeserving the bastards are. Its called corporate welfare.

Look at what happened with Wall Street under the US model of Corporate Fascism. Hundred of billions of dollars were simply expropriated (stolen) from the taxpayers and given to the Wall Street failure system (who soon rewarded themselves with billions in bonuses for their failures). Meanwhile, many people lost everything. How much did that theft cost individual people?

Their government slaves may have managed to head off the mass hangings of the rich robber barons, but only for a few years. Mark these words: outrageous thefts like these will be punished, through revolution if necessary.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Rebellion Coming Soon

At least part of this failure were the removal of regulations which had worked perfectly well since the 1930s which had restricted investment banks from literally gambling on closed investments that, in the end, turned out to be worthless helped along by their good friends at the bond rating agencies.

The banks in the United States and elsewhere, see the UK, somehow became economic drivers as if they produced any “real” product of value. Which is odd as they are supposed to be loaning and “investing” money belonging to their depositors.

Now, I can understand the US and world economies going south if, say, Microsoft announced it was closing shop tomorrow due to bankruptcy or too many debts but that should NEVER happen in the banking sector which is, ideally, servicing the other sectors of the economy. Banking is a service industry not a production industry.

What happened is the failure of turning banking into a rebirth of mercantilism, which may be a form of facism, where the failure of the merchants can bankrupt and entire national or global economy.

And while all this was happening we were told that the market was self correcting, totally transparent and would police itself. Ideally it should do all that but in this case the banks and rating agencies decided they could do what they wanted with investments in things that no one knew what was in them.

How much did this cost real people? In far too many cases it cost them everything.

Anonymous Coward says:

I suspect their reasoning for including memory cards was that video cameras relying on them can be used for recording movies in theaters… though it could just be that they figured out that ANY storage device in theory can be packed with pirated material (hence they closed the possible loophole of using memory cards instead of USB sticks)… In that case they’re probably paranoid.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

We’ve been paying this “tax” to CAPAC, the Canadian royalty collection group, since the days of floppy disks, at least the last round of them that held a fair amount of data. The regulations of the Act that empowered all of this silliness is regularly updated as new tech comes on the market to cover them as well. After all, think of the musician, think of their children, think of Nickleback not being able to make all the money they do. Enough to afford homes in the most expensive postal code in Canada, West Vancouver. (Which is on the North Shore not west of the city of Vancouver at all just to confuse those who have never lived there.

What would we ever do if we couldn’t do this?

And yes, I suspect everyone has pirated whether they were aware of that little detail or not. So in some way we are all pirates. Just not in the ways the recording and movie industries would have us believe we all are.

techflaws (profile) says:

Someone on Heise quotes a statement from a GEMA spokesman which is also quite funny:

“The old fee was set in 2007/2008. The rapid development of compression algorithms e.g. for saving movies und the increased capacity of storage media demands adjustments of the fee”.

So, 8 GB now is more than it was in 2007? And efficiency of compression algorithms increased by 2000%?

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The old fee was set in 2007/2008. The rapid development of compression algorithms e.g. for saving movies und the increased capacity of storage media demands adjustments of the fee”.

I read that as: ‘There have been technological developments that make it cheaper for us to distribute content. Therefore we have to charge the end user more money.’

Austronymous Coward says:


Actually, you’re rather wrong. A 100% increase is doubling the original number, so 2000% increase is equivalent to 20 times the original number. Open your calculator program, punch in 195 (representing the 1.95 Euro), then divide that by 23.38 (2338%). The number should be about 8.3-8.4 which when rounded down becomes the original 8 eurocents that was the old tax on solid state media.

Then there’s things like getting a 150% boost out of a CPU via overclocking it, or redlining an engine to get 130% nominal power output…

silverscarcat says:


Sure there’s 2000%

If I invest 100 dollars in something and get a 100% return on that investment, I can withdraw my original 100 dollars and have 200 dollars.

Now, if the return is 2000% and I withdraw my original 100 dollars, I would have… I believe around 2100 dollars.

See? Math ain’t hard.

JarHead says:


hmm? So what is this “percent” thing? Last I know it’s “1/100”, and can be treated as a unit. So it’s perfectly fine to have 1 Gajillion percent (1Gajillion%) cos that only mean 1 Gajillion * 1/100. Whether it’s sensible or not depends on context.

Like, I very much support a 300% tax decrease, cos that means someone will be paying me 2x of my current taxes.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: WTH

That’s only true with things where there is a ‘totality’. I cannot have more than 100% of one apple (unless it expands somehow). So if I can only give a certain amount of effort, then yes, logically I couldn’t give more than 100%. However, language being the imprecise thing it is, we tend to miss out useful words like “100% of normal” (where extraordinary measures might be taken).

Besides, 100% of what I might do in one circumstance might only be 90% of what I’d do in another.

Besides, this is really a form of hyperbole, not maths. The ‘illogic’ of it is part of the point. Please take it up with the English teachers, not the mathematicians.

RD says:

Re: Re: WTH

“You can’t have more than 100% of a thing, for example when you say I gave 110% effort, no you can only give %100. But when talking about relative “volume”, 2000% just means 20x.{“

wow. ok, in a sense, you are right, you can’t have more than 100% OF ONE THING. But you CAN have a multi-hundred percent INCREASE of those things.

If you have 1 apple, and you then take 4 more from me, how much more do you have? Your 1 apple is your 100% starting point. You now have 5 apples. Tell us again what 5 times 100 is?

We are talking about multiplying the number of apples, not sub-dividing an apple.

When you figure out how math and economics work, come back and we can have a proper conversation.

Anonymous Coward says:


100% is the sum of all the parts.It cannot be more.
If you have 10 pennies you have 10% of a dollar.If you have 130 pennies you do not have 130% of a dollar.You have 100% of a dollar and 30% of another dollar.
Retail markup is very different.
If you have an item that cost you a dollar and decide to mark it up 30% and used the math I see here, you would sell that item for $1.30.But if you decide to mark it down 30% it would then be $ would lose $.09 and soon be out of business.To obtain a proper markup you would need to divide the original amount by the compliment of the markup amount.
100 marked up by 30% is 100/70= a sale price of 1.43.
to verify…1.43*30=42.9….1.43-43=100
Get you slide rules out!

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: WTH

Yes, you can use it that way. We don’t normally count money in individual, specific coins – we talk about collections of them as cost or payment. So using “130%” of an original dollar cost makes perfect sense. It’s irrelevant if you pay with a dollar and three 10s, or with 13 dimes. The quantity (cost) has gone up by 30%.

And yes, the behaviour of percentages varies if you are going up or down. You can’t practically sell anything for more than 100% less (which would be free) – anything else would be paying someone to take it, effectively. Also, because it is based on reciprocals, you can’t really compare 70%*(100%+30%) with (100%-30%). Those are mathematically two totally different calculations. But that extremely basic high school maths.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: WTH

Yes I’m aware that we don’t count money in “individual specific coins”.(except for coinstar and banks)and it is relevant if your using a vending machine.
I used pennies only as an example.
If you add $.30 to a dollar you don’t get 130% of a dollar.You get a dollar and thirty cents,or $1.30.
Also in my example the cost doesn’t go up, only the price does.The cost is still a Dollar.
My example relates to markup in a retail setting.
130% is not a 30% markup of a $1.00…$1.43 is.Do the math!
But you are correct in that I did use two different calculations…one to find the markup and one to discount it.
If you try and do a 150% markup you can’t because there’s no compliment.You can set your selling price anywhere you want,but if later you decide to discount your merchandise back to your cost to get rid of it you may wind up losing money.
Really simple and basic math that I learned in the second grade.

hfbs (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 WTH

“130% is not a 30% markup of a $1.00…$1.43 is.Do the math!”

Pardon my apparent stupidity, but I’m afraid I don’t understand this. I thought 130% of 100(i.e. $1) was 130 i.e. $1.30?

How can you say that 100 plus 30% equals 1.43? Sure, 70% of 143 is (roughly) 100, but you don’t start from 143..

What might be confusing me is the switch between “130%” and “$1.43” but even when I look at them separately, I still see errors. “130% is not a 30% markup of $1” – well, it is, actually.. “a 30% markup of $1 .. is $1.43” – well, it’s not though. It’s $1.30.

Granted, it’s been a few years since I had to memorise it, but to me, it doesn’t seem right.

Also, to the original AC – you’re stupid and you should be ashamed. Not only for the original comment, but for making me confused.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 WTH

LOL…Sorry I confused you.

If we do it your way 30% of a dollar is .30. add that to the dollar and you get $1.30. So far we’re good.

If We do it my way We get 1.43. so far you’re not so good.

But the difference is using a percentage to mark up and down and not a dollar amount. (cost / the compliment of the percentage. 30% mark up = 70% compliment…40=60 etc.

If we decide to have a sale and want to reduce the price by 30% (not $.30)so as to not go below our cost of $1.00

Your sale price would be $.91 ($1.30-30%=$.91)

My sale price would be $1.00 ($1.43-30%=$1.00)try it.

This distinction may not be very important when your talking about a few items at a dollar each.

You may want to try it out on a Million dollars worth of inventory and see how much money you lose doing it your way.
(add six zeros and see what you wind up with.

The next time you go to the supermarket look at all those sale signs in the isles and you can see where a simple chain wide $.09 mistake can really add up.

It gets even more costly when you do a 50% or more mark up and do it your (and just about everybody’s) way.
Hope this helps

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 WTH

You seem to have gotten the conversation about general percentages mixed up with some mythical dime store with some really odd, unstated assumptions.

Firstly, who gives a **** whether someone loses money on some mythical markup/markdown? We’re discussing whether percentages can go over 100%. The simple answer is: they can.

As for your examples, can people mess these up in shops? Sure. So they need to be careful. But you’re hypothesing a load of assumptions that are faulty (like a 30% markup followed by a 30% markdown) and completely out of nowhere.

Percentages are very very very simple. What complicates them a little is when they are applied in sequence. However, all that is is very very simple multiplication/addition, with the standard rules of mathematics applied. I.e. multiplication/division happens before addition/subtraction, and the use of brackets overrides that. With some careful thinking, you can also look at how addition/subtraction is ‘identical’ to multiplication/division (1 + 1 = 2 * 1). Regardless, anyone running a shop who can’t do this simple maths either needs to finish elementary school, or stop mucking with the prices!

The only difference with percentages is that the decimal place has been moved a bit, and a new (obviously confusing) symbol has been added.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 WTH

You can set your selling price anywhere you want,but if later you decide to discount your merchandise back to your cost to get rid of it you may wind up losing money.

I’m hoping you’re just misunderstanding one thing. That is you seem to have an expectation that increasing something by 30% and then decreasing it by 30% should get you back to the same number. This is not correct. 130 is a bigger number than 100, so 30% of 130 is going to be bigger than 30% of 100. So you’re subtracting a bigger number than you added, and naturally you’ll end up with a smaller number than you started with.

If you think about it, it wouldn’t make any sense for 30% of 130 to be the same as 30% of 100.

Tor (profile) says:

'You Are All Pirates' Tax

I wonder if it’s really wise to call this a piracy tax. After all, isn’t the official motivation for this tax the same in Germany as in Sweden, i.e. a way of “compensating” copyright holders for copyright exemptions that allow certain private copying?

I’m sure the copyright industry would love to have rules that say that they should be compensated for piracy too (not just legal private copying), but should we really legitimize that viewpoint by naming the tax like you did? Isn’t it much better to educate people and tell them that the tax isn’t used for what it’s supposed to and that there is little scientific evidence pointing to a need for a tax on empty storage media.

In fact in many cases there is no need to compensate for private copying since it is something that can be factored into the sales price instead. The market would do a much better job at determining the right value of the private copying exemptions than political committees.

Tor (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'You Are All Pirates' Tax

“Why not call these people out as conmen and charlatans, rather than bitching about the tax name?”

My “bitching” about buying into how these “conmens and charlatans” want to describe the world was meant to make it easier to call them out…
You could compare it to how comparisons of copyright and property are often used to mislead people.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'You Are All Pirates' Tax

It’s not even that: it’s an entitlement tax.

…Actually, this should be implemented. Then a full record of all sales of music in Germany should be recorded and the funds raised by this should be disbursed based on a simple calculation based on the percentage of the market share. Ands none of it should reach GEMA. OR the government.

Tor (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'You Are All Pirates' Tax

“NO rightsholder on earth is entitled to ANY compensation when I rip my bought CD to MP3 on my USB stick. So yes, it’s a piracy tax.”

And yet the laws in many countries give them that right.

My point is that if we say “hey, the official justification for this system is not true, so let’s pretend the system is meant to compensate for illegal copying”, then we’re playing into the hands of those who’d love such a system. It’s better to say, “let’s assume just for a moment that the official justification for this system is true, then it still doesn’t work at all and is poorly designed, so (if not for other reasons already) let’s get rid of it”. If people are compensated for illegal copying, then that is not an indication that the system works – it’s an indication of the opposite.

Hak Foo (profile) says:

Re: 'You Are All Pirates' Tax

That comes from a faulty assumption.

Your argument begins on the belief that the creator gets the entire universe of possible uses for himself, and if we set aside anything (i. e. private use, fair use) it’s a cost to them, worthy of some recompense.

The more correct model is that anything we offer the creators is a gift at everyone else’s expense, so there’s no obligation to make up for some revenue stream they’re being denied.

Your justification is like saying “I didn’t get you that Maybach for your birthday, Sally Super Sweet Sixteen, but here’s a Porsche, and I’ll buy you something else to make up for the letdown.”

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ll be honest. I downloaded a ton of music when I was younger (I’ve become a bit of a musical fossil and fixed in my tastes, or I probably still would be downloading more)

What started me on the sordid road to piracy, when I used to buy 5-10 CDs a month?

When the Canadian equivalent of ZPU started shit like this and adding “You are a dirty thief” taxes on top of any form of blank media. After I dropped an extra 30 bucks on a first gen iPod (this was a while ago obviously) because of it, I figured I might as well pirate music, since I was being treated like a thief and paying for it anyways.

And it didn’t hurt that Napster/Limewire were in the news then (thanks Lars!) to point me in the right direction.

So basically they took a good customer (5-10 CDs a month was a decent chunk of my disposable income in university), treated him like a thief and charged him extra because of it, and then pointed him in the direction of where to download the free stuff they just assumed he was downloading in the first place.

Mine is hardly a unique story. And it is the better part of two decades old.

You’d think the music industry would learn by now, after all but pushing my generation into downloading


Re: blank media in canada

I always wondered if a Canadian could buy cheap blanks in the US and get them across the border. OfficeMax always had one or another brand on sale for 25 USD per hundred dvds and even less if you turned in your old print cartridges. Would customs seize the blanks?

Anonymous Coward says:

but there will be no reduction in the accusations of piracy, no reductions in piracy, no reduction in the cost of buying any legitimate media and no increase in the amounts paid to artists. the other thing is, the companies that produce all of the needed things to reproduce media, ie the burner, the blank disc, the software etc, are often manufactured by the same companies that produce the movies or music, eg, Sony. they expect people to continue to support the company by buying these things but then put them in a drawer somewhere, unopened and unused?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

German collection society decides everyone else owes them a living.

We don’t want to compete so we will just make everything else more expensive to support us.

I’d call it corporate welfare, but lets be honest… of the fees that will be collected, what tiny sliver of a cent will make it to an artist? Most of this will just line GEMA’s and the other member’s pockets.

We treat everyone like criminals, why is there this sudden increase in criminal behavior?!

They so want us to “respect” copyright and yet somehow can’t show the people respect. Did they miss the lesson you reap what you sow?

Da fuck? says:

Well one things for sure… If someone was not a pirate this is a pretty good incentive to become one.

I guarantee if I was forced to pay 2000% tax hikes for something I was not doing I would start doing it. I’m not going to pay for something I’m not doing. The only logical choice is to become a pirate since you’re all going to be paying for it anyways.

I’m from the USA and I salute you GEMA for your awesome plans to turn everyone in Germany into pirates.

You morons just gave every pirate in Germany JUSTIFICATION for their online habits! Way to go!!

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Because, you know, they have to ‘compensate’ for the ‘limited’ right to copy that is meant to partially compensate for the granting of a monopoly to them in the first place.

It’s like the copyright holders are ‘renting’ a house from ‘the public’, and because the ‘homeowner’ has a legally mandated but limited right of entry for maintenance trying to get the government to force the ‘homeowner’ to pay a penalty for that right.

Ninja (profile) says:

It is interesting, one way of fighting the MAFIAA is simply avoid buying its affiliates products, which I do with pleasure. But how do you avoid paying an unfair and potentially unconstitutional (at least in some countries) fee? You can’t.

So, if I were German I’d just pirate with my mind at ease because after all, every1 is paying the artists. Now I just wonder if it’s fair to give money to that lazy ass ‘artist’ that just produces a pile of turd and feels entitled to receive money for it.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

which are used almost exclusively in cameras to record content produced by end-users

Thus creating copyrighted material, thus making it legal for GEMA to demand money for the storage of it. If the general public wants to get a cut of that money, they’ll have to sign up with GEMA (for a fee) and they’ll be counted to the big heap of other ‘no-name’ artists.

rukidding (profile) says:

Why not tax the use of electrons too

Memory cards and sticks can be used for any number of reasons, not just for piracy. So, with this line of reasoning, why not also tax the use of electrons since without electrons piracy would not be possible on the alleged scale that it is now – it would reduce to whatever people could hand-copy themselves.

marcus says:


I live in Germany. I will never buy another piece of music in this country. I will never attend a live performance. Its too expensive now to hear a piano player at a resturant so I don’t go. I will drive to Prague if I want to enjoy myself at a concert or a club and buy my CDs and memory sticks there.

The president of sony said that the company looses millions of dollars in Germany because of this rogue organization who does nothing to help musicians.

As in America, the Government works for the corporations and not the people.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:


Movie Theaters?! You think this is about movie theaters? Hell no. It’s about dancing at weddings! Weddings already cause musicians to feel hunger pangs simply by playing music. When dancing occurs at those weddings musicians begin to starve. But If you were to record that dancing…OH GOD you’re a cruel beast!!! YOU SAVAGE BRUTAL PIRATE DEVIL HITLER!!!

flobota (user link) says:

The usage of the "tax"

While I agree with you, that this increase should at least be justified somewhat, I think it might be cool to explain while this money is collected: The money is shared proportionale among musicians, writers and other creative people at the end of each year according to their success.

Though it’s debatable how success is defined, the overall system is a good idea, in my opinion and in fact, it’s an option that is widely discussed in the current German copyright debate. There are several concepts on the table that each person with an internet connection should pay a monthly or annual fee while file sharing and other stuff gets legalized.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: The usage of the "tax"

How do we know that any of this money is actually going to the artists? The recording industry has a long history of ripping off musicians. There have been many of the great pioneers of rock that made millions for the record companies who died in poverty. Here is a great video by an entertainment attorney explaining how an artist could sell a million albums and still be in the hole after all the fees are deducted. It is nothing short of racketeering.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: The usage of the "tax"

There are several concepts on the table that each person with an internet connection should pay a monthly or annual fee while file sharing and other stuff gets legalized.

That’s another bad idea. This isn’t like health care, where the government incurs costs providing a service, and taxes are to pay for the costs. That plan would be government taking money from citizens and giving it to private businesses in exchange for something the government could do for free: update its copyright laws. Not to mention that there are people with an internet connection who have no interest in file sharing, but would pay the tax anyway.

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