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by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
criminals, dsl, italy, piracy, tax

Italian Authors Want A 'You Must Be A Pirate' Tax On All DSL Connections

from the you're-a-criminal! dept

Plenty of countries have different types of "blank media" levies, which act as something of a "you must be a criminal!" tax. Basically, industries have convinced governments to force consumers to pay a lot more, on the assumption that they're all criminals, and rather than pushing the industries to innovate new business models, they just get to collect that "tax." In the US, the RIAA has suggested such a tax should be added to broadband connections, though there seems little chance of that happening any time soon.

However, Sean alerts us to an effort under way in Italy to do exactly that. Apparently the Society of Authors and Editors has asked the government to impose a tax on all DSL connections (the article's in Italian, but Google has a decent translation). Hopefully this is one of those outlandish proposals that goes nowhere, but it's worth paying attention when these sorts of proposals are being pushed, as they have the inevitable tendency to spread.

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  1. identicon
    SteveD, 6 Nov 2008 @ 8:34am

    Although this is a terrible, terrible idea, if it did get implemented then how would it actually work?

    Who would decide who got the cash? You couldn't raise a public tax for private enterprise, it would need to be an entirely public body with regulatory oversight, like the BBC.

    In fact if it was implemented in the UK I'd guess we'd end up with something a lot like the BBC managing artists and paying wages. Hardly a system that would benefit the major labels.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    TG, 6 Nov 2008 @ 8:50am

    That's great news!
    That means all piracy downloads must be legal, right? Since you've paid for it through your taxes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    lavi d (profile), 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:02am


    This should only be allowed to pass if:

    1)The tax is negligible - no more than 2% of the total connection cost

    2)The taxpayer is shielded from prosecution under copyright law and may download/upload copyrighted material at will.

    Let the artists and the corporations fight the government over the cash and the rest of us can enjoy the internet without the threat of inane litigation.

    (I am an artist and I derive income from my work. I agree wholeheartedly with the Masnick Doctrine)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:04am

    I must be a criminal

    Seeing as we in Canada are already paying a levy for blank media, I think I'll just go ahead and exercise my right to download copyrighted material. I've already paid for it so it can't be illegal, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Josh, 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:09am

    If I'm paying...

    Hey, if I'm paying a tax just because I *might* be a pirate, I might as well get my money's worth and be a pirate.

    Kinda the same thing where in order to actually enjoy and keep the content I purchase, I'll have to break the DMCA eventually and be a criminal - so I should make my life simpler and just download the content in the first place for free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    chris (profile), 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:14am

    blanket licences are good....

    if they are not mandatory.

    i wish i could just pay a reasonable fee every month to download and distribute whatever i want. the studios can continue to use media sentry and the like to snoop on me and call my ISP, but as long as my license is up to date the ISP can tell them they have no claim.

    the problem is determining the price of such a license.

    the industries would like the bidding to start at current prices for physical media and go down slightly, and downloaders would like the price to start at free and go up slightly.

    i would gladly pay for a get out of jail free card, not because i am worried about getting busted, but because it would be so much more convenient to just use large public trackers like TPB rather than using private trackers or tunneling BT traffic thru relays since that's so slow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    You never know, 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:14am

    And this comes from the same people who build FIAT, right?
    Enough said.......

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:34am

    Simple solution? Get a cable internet connection rather than a barely-faster-than-dial-up DSL connection.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Overcast, 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:41am

    Now even singers want Welfare... sheesh

    Although this is a terrible, terrible idea, if it did get implemented then how would it actually work?

    I guess they'd just mail them a check at the first of the month, along with Welfare checks.

    Do you think they should qualify for food-stamps too? hmm

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Valkor, 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:42am

    Re: blanket licences are good....

    There is such a thing already. It's called Netflix and Rhapsody. Now, maybe Netflix's on-demand technology isn't perfect yet, and maybe $45 a month for the two seems high, but that's economics talking. That kind of service will probably keep getting cheaper.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    hegemon13, 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: blanket licences are good....

    Not the same at all. Netflix has an extremely limited selection and is limited to streams only. Without special hardware, you have to watch it on your computer. Rhapsody music is DRMed, so you only keep it as long as you keep paying a license fee. And, again, you have to have a portable player that supports Rhapsody in order to use it outside your computer.

    The ideal option would be a voluntary license that allows you to use whatever system you want for download and/or non-commercial digital distribution. Ideally, it should be a licensing organization for "creative content" as a whole. Otherwise, we'd be paying one fee for movies, one for music, one for books, one for tv shows, etc, etc. Implementation would be difficult, though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Jeff Rife, 6 Nov 2008 @ 10:06am

    Re: Re: blanket licences are good....

    Neither Netflix nor Rhapsody allow you to download non-DRM files on their "monthly fee" plans, so $45 for *renting* media is a really bad deal.

    You can, of course, strip the DRM from Rhapsody files using various tools, but that just takes us back to the same old problem: DRM makes criminals out of people that weren't criminals to begin with, so why not just avoid paying Rhapsody in the first place, since you end up just as liable either way.

    Also, I'm not an iPod owner, but any music service that doesn't work with an iPod seems like a doomed business model to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    xtraSico, 6 Nov 2008 @ 10:06am

    Re: TG

    Well... not actually right.

    Take income taxes for example: you pay for your income. If you sell cars, you have to file your return. If you make profits, you might have to pay taxes. Right? If you are an employee of XYZ-mart, you have to file a return. If you earn good money, you might have to pay taxes. Right?

    If you sell drugs, that's illegal. Did you know that you have to file a return to report your income on any activity? Did you know that if you get profits you might have to pay taxes?

    So, not necessarily paying taxes for something makes it legal.

    Of course, you are not going to say: Uncle Sam, hey my occupation is "drug dealer" and I made excellent profits this year, so I am paying the taxes I owe you.

    "You pay for your income, just lie to me on where did you get it. Just pay and STFU."

    Maybe is a terrible example, but they teach you that in Tax course at the University.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Vincent Clement, 6 Nov 2008 @ 10:32am

    Re: Equitable?

    It shouldn't be passed at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    zcat, 6 Nov 2008 @ 10:59am

    If done right, I'd approve of this 'tax'

    New Zealand used to have a 'broadcasting fee' which everyone who had a TV was supposed to pay. The UK still has such a fee as well. One of the biggest problems with the broadcasting fee (I think the main reason NZ abandoned it) is that it's very hard to tell who has a TV.

    It's a lot easier to tell who has an internet connection, since for the most part you can't just 'tune in' but have to have an account with an ISP.

    One of the concerns our government keeps voicing is that local content won't get made unless we have stronger copyright, three-strikes rules and bullshit like that. I'd be very happy to pay a few dollars extra each month to fund local content and have the Government completely back off about private copying. If you want to bust someone, go hassle the dairy owners that sell $5 DVD copies of "Siones Wedding" over the counter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Dave, 6 Nov 2008 @ 11:34am

    Next step??

    I'm waiting for the levy on speaker wire. After all, no matter what the format, all piracy goes eventually through a speaker wire.

    $5000 a foot would do (and that would make everyone as expensive as Monster)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Nov 2008 @ 11:51am

    If I had to pay this kind of tax I would reinstall my torrent application!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Stefano Quintarelli, 6 Nov 2008 @ 1:15pm

    not true

    I was a speaker at the same conference.

    The press reported an opinion by a SIAE (collecting agency) manager as if it was a SIAE proposal.

    Immediately after it was released by a news agency, Mr. Assumma (head of SIAE) clearly stated that this is absolutely not the position of SIAE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, 6 Nov 2008 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re: TG

    This isn't a tax to use the internet this is a tax that goes directly to the entertainment industry to help prop up their business model on the possibility that you could potentially download their stuff.

    It would be more like a tax on pets that goes to the rich guy down the street because of the possibility of your dog crapping in his yard.

    If I had to pay that tax I'd be taking my dog down the road every day to do just that. Same thing with this tax. I'd be calling Comcast and forcing them to remove the cap because my bit torrent would be on 24/7.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    demonioardente, 6 Nov 2008 @ 3:49pm

    Full article

    Full article is located at

    My translation of the article (didn't look at google's, so not sure of it's accuracy):

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    triggs, 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:48pm

    A slow strangulation of innovation

    When I first heard about this kind of proposition (I think it was the recording industry in the U.K.), the first thing I though was that if there is anything that can make an industry go flat and stale it would be something like this.

    The purpose of copyright (at least as defined in the U.S.) is to grant creators of works a government protected monopoly on the copy and distribution of their works. This helps to ensure that those creators have incentive to continue creating. As a necessary component of that incentive, the monopoly should expire after a fairly decent length of time (in my personal opinion, say 10-20 years). Why should it expire? The incentive would be the need to obtain a new copyright, presumably on a new work (and assuming the creator wants to stay in that same line of work).

    What a tax like this does however, is ensure that no matter how long of a period of time may pass, the members of whatever industry is granted this are guaranteed basically a lifetime of income. There is no further incentive to put out more creative works. What need to create more works when the mere presence of a means of digitally distributing works can be merely taxed. Simply for existing. Add on top of that that once this is done for one industry, more will clamor for the same protection.

    It usually snowballs in the following manner. First, one industry that has a long history of using PR to proclaim the lack of government protections for their industry. They get the protection they desire, because they cried long and loud enough. No one bothered to truly oppose it at first, it was too ridiculous to be taken seriously. No matter how many times they fail, they only truly need to succeed once. After the foot is in the door on this sort of law or legislation, then a representative with a large number of constituents in a different industry suffering similar "depredations" demands that his constituents get the same protection. In a decade or less, what was once 1 tax to protect 1 industry, balloons into 10 or 12 different taxes, more government protection of failing business models.

    Because of that government protection and guaranteed income, exploitation will skyrocket. People will put out 1 or 2 works in a period of 5 years or so that are absolute shit. But it's enough to maintain their membership in the industry association that receives the tax income.

    It goes on and on.
    This idea, is just plain wrong, and only leads to worse. I've only scratched the surface on what this sort of legislation can lead to, it goes much much deeper, and increases exponentially with the size and scope of the bureaucracy and number of "industry associations".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    mike allen, 6 Nov 2008 @ 10:58pm

    Post number 21 is correct

    It could go even further Mike could get paid from it for this blog, and we could fr these comments by the time it gets to that stage the internet is dead as only those with very large incomes can afford the tax.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2008 @ 3:01am

    Re: Equitable?

    Unfortunately this, like the BBC license in the UK, ignores one simple fact - those who don't want or use it must still pay for it.

    I don't download ANY music, legal or otherwise so why would I want to pay an enforced subscription fee for something I will NEVER use?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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