Why A Music Download Tax Is A Bad Idea

from the unintended-consequences dept

In the last few weeks, a lot of folks have been submitting the story about the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) proposing a $5/month "tax" on ISP connections, which could then be used to reimburse songwriters and musicians for downloading. I've resisted writing about it, because it's been discussed at length in the past when it's been suggested. The one difference here is that a group of musicians is actually supporting it. However, Michael Geist does an excellent job explaining why it's not a very good idea. Beyond pissing off those who don't feel they should subsidize the rest of the industry, it's not at all clear it's necessary. There are plenty of other business models that the music industry can use to support musicians and songwriters that don't require a special tax. However, the biggest reason, as Geist points out, is the second you do this, plenty of other industries will come out of the woodwork demanding a special fee get applied to internet connections as well. Newspapers that think Google and Craigslist are "stealing" from them will demand a special "news tax." And then think of all those other industries who claim they're being impacted by the internet. You'll have a special auto-mechanic's tax, to pay for mechanics who are upset about the DIY info found online. The "knitting tax" for all the free knitting patterns online. I understand that AAA may be upset about Google maps. Travel agents want that "travel tax" to pay for all that business that Expedia has cost them. Where does it stop?

Filed Under: canada, downloads, isp tax

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2008 @ 1:36pm

    So, everybody has to pay a music fee on their internet access bill, whether they use it or not? Yeah, that's intelligent.

    A couple visits a hotel. When they prepare to leave and go to settle up the bill, there's a $50 charge for the swimming pool listed. They demanded to speak with the manager.

    Man: Why is this charge on my bill? We never used the swimming pool.

    Manager : Well, it was available.

    Man: Well I'm going to give you a bill of $500 for sleeping with my wife.

    Manager: I never slept with your wife!

    Man: No, but she was available.

    I think the punchline applies to this stupid tax idea as well. You cannot fairly tax people for something that they never use or receive any benefit from. Things like fuel taxes for road maintenance make sense, because everybody who uses fuel uses the roads. A music tax does not make sense, because there are bound to be lots of people who never download music.

    On a related note, there are people like farmers and construction workers who use diesel fuel in offroad machinery that is rarely, if ever, on the roads. They are exempt from the tax, and the diesel they buy for their equipment is dyed red. If the red diesel is found in trucks on the road, whoever is caught with it is in serious trouble. You could say the red dye is a watermark for determining whether the fuel is legal or not.

    The watermarking idea for non-DRM music files creates a win-win situation for all. Consumers can freely play their music anywhere they like under fair use terms, and agencies that enforce copyright laws can police file sharing networks looking for people sharing watermarked music files, which will enable them to track down and stop illegal file sharing in a sensible manner. Trying to implement a stupid tax will not solve any problems, but rather put more of the consumers' money in the wrong pockets, and the pirating problem will still exist.

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