Austrian Rights Holder Group Wants To Hit Cloud Services With A 'You Must Be A Pirate' Tax
from the cloudy-with-a-chance-of-rent-seeking dept
Another “YOU ARE ALL PIRATES” levy is being proposed by Austrian rights holders group Autoren. In addition to the fees already paid by consumers on blank CDs and DVDs, IG Autoren is pushing even further. And it's not just interested in physical media.
Consumers in Austria already pay levies on blank CDs and DVDs. Rights holders have been advocating to expand these kinds of fees to hard drives and other forms of storage media as well, and apparently aren’t just thinking about local storage. In its newspaper, IG Autoren wrote:
“We not only want a hard disc levy, we also want a levy for the usage of the cloud.”
Hardware makers have pushed back, calling these proposed levies what they really are: double dipping. Consumers already pay the levy on blank media and now, Autoren wants to tax the computer, the hard drive and the cloud it connects to. With the dropoff in sales of blank media, IG Autoren's got to make up the income somewhere, right? This is what passes for “fairness” in the eyes of rights holders. If one form of media dies out, along with its associated fees, it must be replaced with another. Rather than face the fact that a business model that predicates itself on the assumption that piracy is the main reason people purchase CDs, DVDs, hard drives and cloud storage is a thoroughly flawed model, IG Autoren would rather push for additional levies — all in the name of the artists, of course.
One would think that if levying taxes on storage was such a money maker, artists would be better off selling blank CDs at their merch tables if they could collect the levy directly, rather than through a third party. In fact, for those further down on the sales chart, it just might be, considering the “trickle down” effect continues to rain dollars on the most successful artists while leaving the other 95% with mere pennies.
Not that IG Autoren is interested in approaching this logically. To defend its rent-seeking, it points to Germany, the country with some of the most screwed up concessions to rights holders' demands.
Rights holders on the other hand point to Germany, where levies are already in effect. German consumers currently pay €13.65 ($17.66) for every PC and between €7 and €9 for external hard drives. However, there is no fee for cloud storage services in Germany.
The European Commission is currently considering reforms to copyright law to better apply it to the digital age. IG Autoren apparently believes means this means it should be able to apply its levies, ones that began back in the analog age of cassettes, to cloud services and any other technology that could conceivably hold an mp3. And it's not just IG Autoren. As reported back in October, a coalition of rights holders sent a submission stating that they were “entitled” to remuneration for personal copies. Fortunately, the commission's paper pointed out that cloud services actually reduced the number of copies made, making a private copy levy “less appropriate.”
If the past is any indication, these rights holders will likely be granted a levy on hard drives and other storage devices, but cloud services may be a tougher battle. Considering many services offer limited free accounts and are likely unwilling to foot the bill for a €7-9 levy, this means these services won't be available (at least not the free option) in countries collecting this fee. The end result of this rent-seeking is fewer options for the public simply because a handful of rights holding organizations feel they're “owed” a cut from anything that can conceivably hold copied files.