HuffPo Columnist: I Infringe, So All Broadband Users Must Pay A New Piracy Tax

from the here-we-go-again dept

We’ve talked time and time again about the pipe dream on some fronts (mostly the entertainment industry) that you should tax broadband connections to give them the money they so justly deserve as victims of new business realities they repeatedly refused to acknowledge. It’s effectively a “you must be a criminal tax,” and despite being an immensely bad idea, it has obviously seen passage in numerous countries in the form of German levies on things like solid state drives and Canada’s tax on blank media. Fortunately here in the States, efforts to push these taxes on broadband users or universities run into strong opposition.

Most people understand that letting the entertainment industry tax everybody for the behavior of a few people simply makes no coherent sense. Except apparently for “musician and freelance writer” Chris Peak, who in at attempt at humor over at the Huffington Post proudly proclaims that he thinks it would be a nifty idea if all broadband subscribers had to pay a monthly fine for the behaviors of other people. Peak begins by proudly admitting he pirates, tossing around some of the usual arguments buried under said attempted humor (it’s “stealing!” and “bands and musicians have essentially given up on selling music!”), and reaches the point where he asks all broadband subscribers to pay more money for no good reason:

“The fix? There is a fix. And it could work. Tax me. Tax for me the amount of bandwidth I use. Tax me each month, then earmark the tax for the film and music industry. Collect whatever percentage off of that tax you want. Enter into an anti-piracy agreement with both the RIAA and MPAA, and distribute the tax as fairly as possible. It would be a difficult task to allocate the tax to the effected artists and software developers, but there are widely available lists, updated daily and weekly, of the most pirated albums, programs, and movies.”

Because it’s not like once those taxes are imposed they’ll endlessly shoot skyward, completely detached from any real-world financial realities, right? If only we had real-world examples of that to show Peak how awful this idea is. Fortunately, ISPs and the entertainment industry are both known for transparency and accurate math, so it’s not like they’ll try to expand and abuse such a levy at every conceivable opportunity, right? It’s also not like entertainment industry middlemen have a long history of taking this kind of money and ensuring they get the lion’s share of it, right? Peak’s idea is fool proof!

The author then cries a little bit about his inability to adapt to a new business paradigm he pretty clearly doesn’t understand:

“I anticipate in the very near future my own music being completely stolen from me, pirated, and offered for free for trade between my fans. Fans are great. I wish I had more (for self-esteem issues). But that music that you kind of stole from me… I spent years writing, years recording, and years begging and borrowing and spending my life’s savings on, hoping that I would find enough fans to buy my music. Because I kind of do this for a living and need to support myself. Get it?”

Got it. Surely the best possible way of building your admittedly-small fan base will be to call them thieves and impose an entitlement fee on top of every broadband connection in the nation, while demonstrating you have limited skills at adaptation. Stardom awaits!

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Comments on “HuffPo Columnist: I Infringe, So All Broadband Users Must Pay A New Piracy Tax”

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jameshogg says:

“You must be a thief” is the justification for both unjust taxes as an alternative to avoiding the enforcement of utopian copyright while still holding copyright in law (which, by the way, will not target the actual people it is supposed to in the guise of the heavy duty pirates who make tons of money through advertising, because by definition they will not pay a tax on illegal profits – Al Caponism/drug-cartelism in a nutshell) and for Digital Rights Management philosophy that thinks its necessary to break core functionality of your computers and make them more vulnerable to hackers. You must be taxed because “you must be a thief” – your computer must be broken because “you must be a thief”.

No. The only way forward is to make your end consumers know that the existence of your creativity depends on their payment, and let the crowd realise they have a responsibility to pay their dues if they want any creativity whatsoever – if they don’t pay up, they will not get what they want. Which ultimately means crowdfunding. Amanda Palmer made a terrible mistake in her TED talk by saying that Kickstarter was a way of “letting” people pay for music instead of “making” them pay. To the contrary, crowdfunding websites, like tickets, subscriptions, pre-orders and other assurance contract economies, are the most heavily underrated and underestimated paywalls out there.

There’s a terrific irony here that copyright advocates like to praise every form of paywall conceivable except the ones that actually work. Policing every copy through copyright-paywalls is a silly way of going about things when paywalls stand their grounds far better without copyright by forcing payment as a condition of the creation’s existence.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There’s a terrific irony here that copyright advocates like to praise every form of paywall conceivable except the ones that actually work. Policing every copy through copyright-paywalls is a silly way of going about things when paywalls stand their grounds far better without copyright by forcing payment as a condition of the creation’s existence.

There is an explanation for that actually. Crowdfunding, the ‘paywall’ idea you talk about, only works if people like the person asking for money, and are willing to throw money at the creator so they can make their music/movie/other content.

If on the other hand you’ve got a massive reputation of screwing over your customers, showing contempt towards them, and/or are too lazy to bother connecting with them to the point that they want to give you money, such an idea will fail before it even gets off the ground.

With a ‘you must be a pirate’ tax though, it doesn’t matter if people like you, if they hate you, of even if they’ve ever heard of you, they still have to pay you, whether or not they want what you’re offering.

Considering it’s almost always the *AA’s(or their foreign equivalents) and various ‘collection’ agencies that are always pushing for such ‘taxes’ to be put in place, and the kind of reputation they tend to have… well, you can see why they wouldn’t even try the crowdfunding idea, and in fact would hold it in contempt.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Gotta watch those double standards

From early in the article:
‘In just a few hours, to wind down my evening, I’ll watch a pirated movie (thanks, Ellen DeGeneres) in the confines of a cozy bed. And I’m sure that after I brushed my teeth this morning I listened to my iTunes, full of songs which, you guessed, are pirated. ‘

Then later on:
‘But that music that you kind of stole from me… I spent years writing, years recording, and years begging and borrowing and spending my life’s savings on, hoping that I would find enough fans to buy my music. Because I kind of do this for a living and need to support myself. Get it?’

So, practically brags about how much pirated content he watches/listens to, and then has the gall to get angry at the idea of someone else doing the same to his music?

Just a little rule of thumb but, if you do something to other people, and see nothing particularly wrong with doing so, you don’t get to get angry and upset should they turn around and do it back to you.

Still, given the apparent mass piracy he engages in, I look forward to reading about the absolute avalanche of lawsuits sent his way, bankrupting him into oblivion, since obviously the *AA’s treat piracy by people they don’t like the same as piracy committed by people working for them. /s

MrWilson says:

Yes. Already ridiculously slow and overpriced broadband connections for citizens of a country with proportionately inferior broadband penetration to other first world countries and insufficient broadband competition should cost even more because the richest of overly-produced and overly-hyped musical artists need to be paid…more than they already are…for more crack and prostitutes and jail bonds and defense attorneys and trashed hotel room repair fees…because the internet is like stealing.

Anonymous Coward says:

So, the RIAA/MPAA members get money…but what about ASCAP? BMI? Other composer, writer, author and artist associations?

Oh wait, what about the Author’s Guild, and other writer associations?

And photographers? They need their cut too!

Oh and what about businesses? I mean, they infringe jsut as much as citizens, so they should suffer this tax too right?

But then, if we’re all paying this “tax” ….does that mean we can pirate all we like without consequence now? We’ve now paid for it. Just like they do in Canada!

How about we fix copyright instead.

Anonymous Coward says:

You like paying $250 bucks a month for internet or more for what you have now? Well that’s where this leads. First it is the poor poor music labels, then it is those barely can make it studios that put out the poor C+ grade movies, then it is the photographers whose images show up on the net, then the gaming houses, then the porn makers, the tv broadcast people, the news stations, the newspaper publishers, the magazine publishers, well… you get the idea.

After everyone of them gets their cut and you pay for the increased taxes on the increased amount, there is no where that it slows down, except when it gets too expensive to have. When that happens, there will be some other idea on how to skin your wallet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If that’s what it takes to convince people that it’s a bad idea to tax all Internet access, just to benefit one or two industries, well… bring it on!

Let the RIAA and MPAA fight against Getty Images, Wiley, the AP, the pornographers and whoever else thinks they should get a cut of every ISP bill. Let the ISPs send their lobbyists running to the legislatures to cry that they can’t charge customers what all these parties would have them charge.

In other words, if they want it to be all about money, make it be all about money. They are the ones who have it, not us consumers … so there’s only so much they can get out of us.

Guardian says:


this jus tmakes it convient and makes its easy and prevetn lawsuits buy people….for bs….

you dont want to pay 1.5 on your internet well thats 4 times what they get via a levy on blank cdrs.
and that would include everything….too many of us are sick n tired of the bs….

we have 80 years in canada term rates, and strict laws now….it is far too easy to breka theselaws…instead of complex i KNOW many would go for a easy tax….and if you say you’d never download well this coudl encourage you….

if yoru adament you never would…then we put you on a filtered account that would bar you and you would pay to make sur eno one cheats.

THATS RIGHT….you might in fact pay more in the end to have it policed…its easy to setup a govt tracker and then have a id like your social insurance to prevent cheating on stats to get the artists paid.

IF you want ot pay and advertise ads are and will be there as well as a whats new page.

they and you dont want this cause it of course solves all the issues and removes it all….

HOW do you admin this…wihout it becomign a increase every year till its a stupid cost?
well easy you have elctions form the citizens of the internet…if you hav einternet in canada for 6 months of the year you get one vote for 5 of 9 seats on a council. that will then oversee all matters to this
you can have 3 can be one of software one for music and one for tv/movies represented on this and one can be a govt person to represent all the other types of media like pictures and books etc.

I did a ten pager of this and had warner brothers steal and twist this from a 1.50 per net account in canada to a 10-20 dollar ( we can make 20 billion a year crazy fest)

when you consider at that time canada had 28 million internet accounts and due to harper and his policies and these we now have 18 million ( thats right 10 million dropped net accounts since the new law came in GREAT WORK HARPER )

28 times 1.5 = 42 million a month or 504 million a year
compared to 43 the music industry gets its share is 25% of the above and you arrive at fair and equatable in this fashion movies get 30% and tv gets 25%.

that is 126 million for music and you ahve to compete and get paid based on direct stats of downloads that are based on per household…ergo one download or ten from same house counts as one download stat ( easy in tracker code to deal with)

this is 3 times what the industry gets and give sany Canadian artist exposure in one spot and if you want a tour company to say we like this its getting lots a hits lets talk to them and invest in a tour then you can go that route….

WHAT we no longer need is a music distribution house like the riaa or music canada ….it then gives the cash right to artists. NOT LAWYERS….

my idea is sound and the only ones that dont like it are pirates that never want to pay a dime for anything and prolly steal change off your table….and the movie/music lawyer/houses…and anyone else that derives income form this…you are either with that lot or we the people.

MARK my words this is the end system that will come….
its the only one that will give something to everyone….
and do it fairly.

Guardian says:



for you music buffs and pro industry types

think canada has 20 million net accounts and there are 2400 milion on the internet

so 504 times 120 = 60.4 billion a year…

and the music industry as a whole would double revenue over night

SO think about it COST as is = about 50 cents per net account…

and think what 18 billion ayear can mean to film industry for block busters and special affects?

your risk is as usual to get the cash upfront to do stuff….
thats YOUR ARTISTS BUSINESS…NOT ME NOR MY GOVT….if you do good stuff we’ll download

trailors and snippets are a advert way to get you noticed…and if its in one place we can look

any moose cow word says:

In summary...

Peak is a hypocrite pirate who decries piracy. Even worse, he can’t figure out a working business model for his own work, so he decides for the rest of us that the best way forward is for everyone to sell their creative souls into intellectual serfdom for companies that also have yet to figure out a working business model–while paying said companies a tax to perpetuate their own existence at everyone’s expense.

Yeah, how could that possibility go wrong?

crade (profile) says:

Re: OK, so there is/was s a Canadian tax on blank media..

Nope. We have anti circumvention here now as well (C-32), We can’t legally decrypt anything. If there are any other horrible laws that the US hasn’t forced on us yet, we will have them as well soon. The Media tax was intended as a cash grab and resulted in being nothing. The epic result of that tax is that we now labels that say “data CD” and “music CD” and no one buys the music ones.

Jason says:

These industries continually steal from the public domain by lobbying for time extension of copyrights. I say we should have a tax imposed on the music and movie industry to to be redistributed to the public for any work they make money on, that has a copyright older than 28 years. We don’t need fancy math for this, we just need their financial records, and a simple percentage, say 75%. Who’s with me?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Not such a good idea, as they will simply not make the older works unavailable. The main reason they want perpetual copyright is so that they can create an artificial shortage of works on the market, so they can sell more of the ones that they make available. (This is thinking that comes from their batch production history).

ahow628 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, I think you missed the point. He is saying that they are welcome to keep things out of the public domain, they just have to pay through the nose for the privilege. Maybe do an progressive tax. So say Mickey Mouse gets taxed at 5% the first decade, 15% the second, 40% the third, 75% the fourth, and 95% for the rest of the time after.

Anonymous Coward says:

the biggest problem, as usual, is with the entertainment industries. they are all up for putting extra taxes on blank media and everything else connected with a computer or the internet, but they still want to haul everyone into court when they download a movie or an album, saying you still haven’t paid for it, even though you are paying extra up front this is what happened in Canada. people were paying an extra tax on blank disks but were still being accused and tried for illegal downloading and copyright infringement. if the industries truly had any sense, instead of total, abject greed in their heads, they would have been satisfied with the tax, but oh no!

DerekCurrie (profile) says:

Default Criminals: Inspires Actual Criminals

Every piece of US legislations written and foisted by our media Corporate Oligarchy, TPP, ACTA, CISPA, SOPA, PIPA, the media taxes, features one singular feature:

The customer is a Default Criminal. Pay for your Default Crimes.

That bad attitude is never acceptable in business. Then there is the simple human reflex of responding to customer abuse with customer retribution.

∑ = Our media Corporate Oligarchy CREATES the criminals they insist we all must be. THEY are their own worst enemy.

It’s the 21st century. Catch up and get with the future, media mogul morons. Treat customers with respect and they always respond in kind, ending your self-generated piracy problem. It’s really that simple. And it doesn’t take a media pirate to notice. You just need to understand basic human decency.

Beech says:

The most despicable part is that even IF this idea gets picked up, small artists like Peak will probably never ever see a dime. Let’s do a walk-through: bill gets passed, tax gets collected. Who gets the money? Probably ASCAP, royalty collection is kind of their bag. And which artists currently get money from ASCAP? Only the monster-huge acts. The small fry get somewhere between nothing and next to nothing.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Please tax me

But if you did that, then they might treat you as a criminal… you know, like they already were by taxing you based upon something that you might do.

Yeah, I don’t think the people who push this sort of stuff understand human psychology very well(that or they’re banking on the inevitable results so they can sue more people), if you treat someone as a criminal, then it increases the odds that they will act like one, and feel justified in doing so.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Please tax me

Nah, it’s fundamentalist Christians on Youtube who don’t understand a thing about human psychology. I was having a ‘debate’ with one of them, and they kept going on about how I, an atheist, am a Satan worshipper, to which I replied with “Very well, if I’m going to be called a Satan worshipper, I might as well actually BE one. Know where the nearest Church of Satan is?”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Please tax me

If you want to have fun with them, you could always ask them how exactly you’re supposed to worship something/someone you don’t believe exists. Won’t likely make any headway, if their mind is really that locked down, but it does point out rather well the ridiculousness of their claim.

Yeah, some fundamentalists(and all ‘born agains’) are funny/crazy like that, the idea that someone could disagree with them and/or their religion, for reasons other than a desire to be evil and commit a bunch of ‘sins’, is just completely beyond them.

Far as I can figure, the idea behind such belief is that to them, their religion is completely and utterly ‘obviously true’, so to them, anyone who disagrees with them/it can only be doing it on purpose, intentionally ignoring the ‘trueness’ of it, and since to them their religion is the source of good, obviously the only possible reason someone would disagree with it, or not follow it, would be because they wish to do bad and/or evil things.

Such is the mind(if you can call it that) of a fanatic I guess, where there’s only one possible ‘truth’, and everyone who disagrees with them isn’t doing so because they have a different opinion, or don’t find the evidence presented compelling enough to agree, but solely because of a desire to do evil.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Please tax me

In case you haven’t noticed, they’re losing that particular fight, with more and more people, states, and even countries recognizing equal rights(probably why the fundamentalists are getting more and more shrill as time passes, they know people increasingly aren’t buying their ‘message’, and they’re getting desperate).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Please tax me

Acting like the person/group you hate, isn’t exactly helping your cause/message you know.

Also, what moron first came up with the ‘breeders’ thing as an insult? That’s not only idiotic, it’s idiotic hypocrisy, fighting to be considered equal, and not be judged by sexual orientation, and then turning around and using a term based on sexual orientation as an insult is just beyond stupid.

Doubting Rich says:

Music sales barely pay artists anything

It’s not like artists get significant income from music sales anyway. Unless they own their label they receive a pittance, and most of that is to lock them in to the contract, and use as leverage for the next contract to lock the artist to one label who makes the money.

Yeah, I am a music industry husband, close enough to know what’s going on (technically a director of one of the few honest companies in the business) but detached enough to be horrified by the legal and illegal practices ripping artists off, rather than blas? about them. I have long been in an industry that is basically clean and honest; the most dishonest person I know in my own field used to manage a major rock band. Quelle surprise.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Music sales barely pay artists anything

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t that be more accurate when describing ‘traditional music sales’, like those made when under ‘contract’ or signed to a traditional label, rather than the newer services, which are supposed to be significantly more musician friendly?

Back when it was a choice between ‘sign this incredibly one-sided contract, give away the rights to your music, and maybe get paid’, or ‘don’t sign, and no one will ever hear your music outside of any local gigs you can manage’, it’s not too surprising(though still disgusting mind) that the musicians would tend to be screwed over, since the labels held all the power, but now, with the drastic increase in other options, musicians should have a much easier time finding truly equal and fair contracts, if they decide to sign them at all, rather than just going solo.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fair compromise.

They get their tax, but *all* anti-“piracy” programs are suspended for as long as the tax exists.

The media groups that accept revenue from this tax must accept an unconditional ban on lawsuits against non-commercial infringers.

All pressure against filesharing sites stops, quite literally “for good”.

If they’re getting payment for internet users consuming their media, then the methods used *must* be acknowledged as legal.

Only fair, only right.

Mat (profile) says:

A tax won't work.

The problem is that even with a tax, it won’t work. Record companies could give a crap less about giving back to the artists. Even now, when lawsuits are recovered for pirating, the artists don’t see anything from that.

If you give them money and it’s not attached to any particular artists name, that money will only pocketed by the billionaires who are raping the artists anyway.

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