Dutch Supreme Court Agrees To Let Rights Group Collect Back 'You Must Be A Pirate' Taxes On Mp3 Players And Hard Drives

from the after-all,-hard-drives-are-nothing-more-than-gigantic-pirate-vessels dept

For years, Dutch natives have purchased hard drives and mp3 players solely for the purpose of loading them up with purloined mp3s — or so a recent Dutch Supreme Court decision would have you believe. NORMA, a Dutch collection society, just won its battle against untaxed hardware, which will result in the collection of unpaid “you must be a pirate” taxes being awarded to it, dating back to 2007.

The original “you must be a pirate” tax was levied against blank CDs and DVDs, with those rates being frozen in 2006. NORMA claimed this put the government in breach of the “Copyright Directive,” because apparently NORMA is entitled to collect money on anything someone could conceivably use to store media files. In the eyes of the collection society, its members “lost millions of euros in revenue” when blank media sales died off and hard drive/mp3 players increased.

Its press release doesn’t state specifically why its stable of artists are “owed” a cut of every storage device sold, but the word “entitled” is deployed. This bizarre reasoning puts us back in the position of wondering whether the artists represented by groups pushing these taxes would just be better off selling storage devices.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The court has decided NORMA will get to collect taxes dating back to 2007, stating that it will revisit this in 6 months to see if anyone can agree on how many millions of euros that should be. NORMA’s press release also notes it’s been successful in instituting a “pirate” tax on smartphones, tablets and PCs, running from 1-5 euros per device depending on storage capacity.

Presumably, like every other rights groups/collection society, the windfall will be paid in top-down fashion, blessing top-selling artists with a few more euros and giving a vast majority of its represented artists nothing at all. This distribution scheme matches up perfectly with the stupidity of the “you must be a pirate tax,” ensuring that nearly everyone but the collection society itself gets screwed — and all in the name of “protecting artists.”

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Comments on “Dutch Supreme Court Agrees To Let Rights Group Collect Back 'You Must Be A Pirate' Taxes On Mp3 Players And Hard Drives”

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40 Comments
Thank you for sending all your business our way. says:

Mass migration of euro's out of Dutch economy.

This essentially means that all future business in buying mass storage will no longer take place in the Netherlands. The population will simply go to the nation next door to buy their media since it will now be cheaper to do so.

So future revenue form the “pirate tax” will be reduced to its lowest levels in years.

The Pirates will then try to get it implemented in the neighbouring nations.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Mass migration of euro's out of Dutch economy.

Unfortunately, that’s where the insidious part comes in, they usually try and keep the ‘you must be a criminal’ tax low enough that buying from areas that don’t have the tax is still the more expensive option due to shipping and whatnot, so unless people know about it, and are willing to pay extra just so they don’t have to pay the extra tax, odds are most will just pay the increased price.

And of course it goes without saying that the ‘collection’ agency isn’t likely to make a big fuss about how their win just jacked up the price on everyone’s electronics, as that would mean the blame would (rightly) fall on them for the price increase, so most people will likely just end up blaming the ‘greedy tech companies for raising the prices’, without having any idea as to the real reason behind the raise.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Levy is hated.

And of course it goes without saying that the ‘collection’ agency isn’t likely to make a big fuss about how their win just jacked up the price on everyone’s electronics, as that would mean the blame would (rightly) fall on them for the price increase, so most people will likely just end up blaming the ‘greedy tech companies for raising the prices’, without having any idea as to the real reason behind the raise.

The collecting agency would wish that to be true. However, he ‘thuiskopievergoeding’ is a separate item on the bill.

Some shops show their prices without the levy and add it at checkout time, adding more frustration.

To really rub it in: the levy is before sales tax. The state takes 21% (another euro) on top of it.

This levy is really hated. To bad people have such short memories they vote for the same crooked politicians who gave them this levy.

techflaws (profile) says:

Re: So its legal now?

No, it’s not. At least that’s what German politicians say when it comes to our “you must be a pirate” tax. It’s just compensation for allowing the “Privatkopie” (private copy) which allows you to share copyrighted (but not copy protected!) material with up to 7 personal friends. This was established years ago in a ruling where a judge with common sense realized there was no way to control what people do with the media they bought (obviously that was before DRM and the NSA).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: So its legal now?

“It’s just compensation for allowing the “Privatkopie” (private copy) which allows you to share copyrighted (but not copy protected!) material with up to 7 personal friends.”

Can you get a refund if you don’t do any such thing with the media you paid for? If not, it’s theft and extortion, no matter how much a politician tries to sugar coat it.

Of course, they’ll not see the hypocrisy in “fighting” what they term as “stealing” by merely stealing money from innocent 3rd parties, but that’s politics I suppose…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Seven personal friends?

Oh, cool.

So I can record myself singing “Happy Birthday” (copyrighted, though it shouldn’t be). I send that recording to 7 personal friends (but no more). Each of them sends it to 7 personal friends of theirs, so now we have 56 copies plus the original. Now each of these 49 friends-of-friends sends it to 7 personal friends of theirs, so we have 399 copies plus the original. Each of these 343 friends-of-friends-of-friends sends it to 7 personal friends, and we have 2800 copies. The next tier gives us 19607 copies, the next one 137256, the next one 960799, the next one 6725600, the next one 47079207…

And since we have computers, we can automate it! Let’s create a program and call it “seven personal friends”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So its legal now?

If not, it should be.

The main argument I keep hearing against file-sharing is that the studios etc. don’t get compensated for their work, which, according to them, allows them to mislabel sharing as “theft”.

If they’re claiming levies on media and players, then they must be made to acknowledge this levy as fair compensation.

The fair and equitable compromise is to forbid anti-filesharing lawsuits and criminal complaints anywhere such a levy is enforced.

Anonymous Coward says:

What are the defamation laws like over there?
Because it seems there are quite a few people who are being accused of things they may not have done. What’s worse is they are not given due process or allowed to defend themselves, they are immediately fined for that which it is assumed they have done or will do. This is a travesty and a gross miscarriage of justice. They should be ashamed.

Anonymous Coward says:

hopefully this will be appealed to the EU. as this tax is being touted as a ‘piracy’ related tax, has it become a legal option now to download movies and music or is it another way of giving money, mainly to the collection agencies again, but giving the people nothing in return? with a vote soon on copyright etc in the EU very soon, this could be an interesting addition to the argument.

Anonymous Coward says:

I always saw this you-must-be-a-pirate-tax as something else and far more disturbing:

-Preemptive punishment (which is illegal everywhere) and
-Collective punishment (which is illegal everywhere)

and I believe even the declaration of human rights have things to say about both of these points.

This has been disguised by calling it a “fee” or a “tax” but none the less it’s collective and preemptive. How is it that the legality of this isn’t questioned anywhere?

beltorak (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They get around it by saying “well no one forces you to buy a hard drive, so it’s not technically compulsory”. You know, like how easy it is to completely avoid facebook and google and the rest of the internet. (yes, it can be done, but it is not easy.)

I don’t know about the collective part; maybe someone else can comment.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Oh my god! They are trying to help musicians and music.”

By stealing money from people who have nothing to do with their inability to make as much money as they prefer. Many of them the people who do pay good money already to buy the music that’s on their devices quite legally, if not people who just don’t use their devices for entertainment purposes at all.

Sorry, that’s not acceptable. Get off your high horse and come up with a solution that doesn’t involve stealing from innocent people. Funny how actual theft is suddenly OK with you people if you can excuse it by claiming it goes to a cause you support, though…

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:

Good point. Why is it “stealing” when we copy and share because each copy (and share) is equated with lost sales revenue, but not “stealing” when we’re charged for something we’re not receiving.

If it’s a subsidy tax, call it that already.

I take issue with the idea of subsidizing artists and musicians on the grounds that it would be open to abuse as a form of welfare. If you can’t make a living as a musician, do it as a hobby but don’t make me pay for it.

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