Too Much Free Time

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
music tax


Bad Idea Redux: Revisiting The Music Tax

from the not-this-again dept

I was going to ignore this, but people keep submitting it. A student blogger for ZDnet has decided that he's solved the RIAA's problems: just tax every internet connection at $1 per month. This is, of course, unworkable and unwise for a variety of reasons. First, the recording industry would laugh (and laugh and laugh) at the idea that $1 from every internet connection would come close to covering what it (falsely) considers to be "losses" from file sharing. Remember, this is the same recording industry that's continually trying to raise the price per song downloaded to over $1. But, more importantly, there are so many problems with a music tax idea, that it's taken up multiple posts here.

However, now that the fall semester is starting, we're curious about the "tens of thousands" of students that supposedly had signed up for Jim Griffin's Choruss -- which is an effort to put just such a plan into practice, though on a smaller scale, just on university campuses -- and, as Griffin constantly reminds everyone -- with a variety of experimental business models rather than a single one (despite them all seeming to reflect this sort of "let's create a big pool of money" concept that makes little sense to us). Last we'd heard from Griffin, back in June, he promised to answer all of the questions folks here had asked him about Choruss. I just emailed with him before posting this, and due to some unforeseen -- but perfectly understandable -- circumstances, he has not yet had a chance to go through the questions, but promises to do so soon. In the meantime, it would be great to hear from any students arriving on campus this fall, and finding out they're a Choruss campus. To date, I've heard from students at two schools, both (happily) telling me their campuses had turned down Choruss, but I haven't heard from anyone who's actually seen the program. But, surely, with tens of thousands of students signed up, at least someone here knows one of them. It would be great to find out from their perspective what's happening.

In the meantime, though, I take solace in the fact that nearly every comment on the ZDnet post points out why the idea is a bad one. This is an improvement. A few years ago when people talked up the idea of a music tax, many people seemed to like it -- but these days, it appears that more and more people are recognizing what a bad and unnecessary idea it is.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    thomas, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 4:44pm

    Why should I pay?

    The only music on my computer is either purchased from iTunes or loaded from CDs that I own. Why should I pay more? And what makes anyone think the money would actually go to artists? The ISPs would demand part of the money to cover their costs in collecting it and the **AA would take the rest. Net amount to artists = zero.

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

  2. identicon
    Will, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 4:47pm

    My biggest issue

    My biggest issue with a music tax is that makes it so the recording industry is paid through the government. Which also means every artist should receive a cut of that money, every month. That would then lead to deciding who is an artist who is getting ripped off and who isn't.

    How do you figure out who was actually pirated the most because logically they would deserve the biggest cut.

    And what about artist that sell music in America but don't live here. Do they get a cut? Because it is Americans who are copying their music without paying for it.

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

  3. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 1st, 2009 @ 5:00pm

    What about the Student Kneecap Tax?

    That's where I get paid not to take a baseball bat to the kneecaps of students blogging on ZDNet.

    What? Explain how it's different.

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

  4. identicon
    Trerro, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 5:07pm

    "What? Explain how it's different."

    You don't have enough thugs to stop your racketeering operation from being shut down, the RIAA does. Other than that, pretty much nothing. :P

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

  5. identicon
    John Doe, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 5:34pm

    I wish they would...

    I don't buy or "steal" music. I listen to the radio whether it is terestial or internet. If they do tax my internet connection, then that will be a license to "steal". I will become the biggest pirate the world has ever known.

    Seriously though, I will be pissed to no end to be taxed for something I don't do. Besides that, it would just open the door to adding a buck onto your conneciton for every other industry that could possibly be affected such as music, newspapers, etc. This is an extremely slippery slope here.

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

  6. identicon
    ..., Sep 1st, 2009 @ 5:57pm

    Music tax is a good idea

    I think that the record labels should be required to pay a tax upon every released musical piece. This tax would be used to help fund the exorbitant load upon our judicial system incurred as a result of their inconsiderate lawsuit factory. Not sure how much it should be.

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

  7. icon
    TW Burger (profile), Sep 1st, 2009 @ 6:03pm

    Re: Why should I pay?

    In Canada we pay a music tax. Every CD, tape, and digital recording device has a fee attached that the government collects from the consumer and gives to the recording industry. I am not making this up it's true: htm

    It's called a royalty but it's a tax of 29 cents for each CD. I only use CD's and digital recorders for computer files that I created. So far there is no fee on DVDs but I can see that coming real soon. In Europe it's worse. Oddly you would think the recording industry would love this money for free setup but they tried to have the royalties removed after they lobbied to create it. It seems they didn't foresee the iPod:

    I have said it before: I am never buying any music ever again unless it's directly from the artist.

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

  8. icon
    TW Burger (profile), Sep 1st, 2009 @ 6:09pm

    Re: Difference Between a Thug and a Businessman

    That's right. The difference between a thug and a businessman has a legal team that can legally beat you up and rob you.

    He who dies with the most lawyers wins.

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

  9. identicon
    Joe Dirt, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 6:20pm

    Just Plain Dumb why the heck should everyone have to pay for something that not everyone uses? It's a violation of our freedom as Americans when people start trying to STEAL our money. Who the heck decided musicians needed to be rich anyway? Um...the people did. So what gives musicians and the flippin' RIAA a right to come back and say that they aren't making enough money now? They have no right to determine their own income, this is a capitalistic society. There is no precedent for who gets to make how much. And guess what? The internet brought about a whole new dimension for capitalism. This scares people who are afraid their stuff isn't good enough to continue to make them rich. The artists who are truly good at what they do (and halfway intelligent) are encouraged when they have the most pirated song out there because that means they're getting exposure, which will lead to more demand. High demand means high income. People will pay $80 for a concert ticket. They will buy the merchandise. And heck, they might even buy the legal copy of their favorite song. If not for all the publicity that pirates have been granted over the years by the organizations tapped to annihilate them, most would not even realize they could download songs or movies for free. Fact of the matter is, when something changes the world like the internet did, you can't keep going along doing the same things hoping that it will all turn out the way you want. Embracing technology is the only way to win, and until some of the geniuses behind the billions of dollars spent on DRM figure it out, the paying customer will continue to suffer as a result.

    Sorry to go on and on, but this is a hot issue with me.

    So to wrap it up my philosophy is that the artists and the RIAA should be charged with compensating the "pirates" who have been giving them free advertising since Napster.

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

  10. identicon
    Yakko Warner, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 7:08pm

    Maybe they don't know

    I wonder if the reason you haven't heard from students paying the Choruss tax is because they don't know they're paying it; that the administration has buried the fee somewhere so the students won't find out about it, just in case they might question it.

    I don't know if that's the case or not, but it wouldn't surprise me.

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

  11. icon
    TesserId (profile), Sep 1st, 2009 @ 7:11pm

    TW Burger has the right idea.

    Don't forget the Copyright Royalty Board.

    In my quest to understand how this "collection agency" works and just exactly how that money flows, I had just this past weekend opened the topic for investigation at Daddy, where does all the money go?.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 11:24pm

    Compulsory license is fine

    The compulsory license is a great idea. They have implemented something on a smaller scale in the UK without too much difficulty. In addition removing the inefficiencies of chasing down and litigating piracy as well as simplifying billing and distribution is win/win. I don't buy the argument that the record industry will be able to capture and exploit the methods of collection and payment. SoundExchange is such small potatoes it flies under the radar and the so-called abuses are relatively minor. Also, if this were a big operation covering the entire US, it would surely be under more scrutiny. Furthermore, the record companies know they are exaggerating the damages due to piracy; the rate would be set based in their current revenue. Given that revenue is declining, they should jump at the chance to index their revenues to a monotonically increasing number like internet connections. Also, you don't have to solve music and movies at the same time; music is more than 90% of the piracy problem right now. Music piracy alone is plenty big to solve on its own without having a grandiose plan.

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

  13. identicon
    Amy, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 12:56am

    Isn't it also disturbing that via a music tax you might end up paying for or supporting some schmuck artist whose lyrics or song messages you absolutely abhor? What abt someone who is known to be homophobic, both in songs or in how the artist funds stuff? What if I don't want any of my money going towards them?

    Really hate the idea of a music tax.

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

  14. icon
    Brian Lee Corber (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 1:16am

    1. Jim Griffin is an asshole.

    2. Not everyone likes music, and since taxes are enforced at the point of a gun ultimately, it's stupid. Music should not be accorded such a high place that taxes are needed to ebnforece music "rights." Absurd idea. Let's start the tea party now.

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

  15. identicon
    Ben Dover, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 5:23am

    Re: Compulsory license is fine

    Compulsory screw you

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

  16. identicon
    Jupiter, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:29am

    we are already taxed for media

    We are already taxed for media - it's called the public library. I can get books, movies, and music there for free and it's paid for by everyone whether they use the library or not.

    A considerable amount of art, theatre, dance, and classical music are subsidized by our tax dollars. Even major Hollywood movies are subsidized by state government tax breaks and incentives (or by the Canadian government). And then there's public television and public radio. Yet for some reason rock music has to make a profit to be culturally valid.

    Seems like some creative record label could form a non-profit to seek grants and donations to help support a roster of artists. Let the people who want to make music be supported by taxes, and let the people who want to get rich try their luck with the for-profit route.

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

  17. identicon
    Richard, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 11:11am

    But the quid pro quo is

    Abandon copyright!
    If the music industry was genuinely willing to give something in exchange for the tax then it might be a way forward. Unfortunately their "have your cake and eat it" mentality means that they will still want to enforce their "rights". For example in Canada you pay that tax on blank CDs - based on the theory that they will be used to copy music - but paying the tax doesn't actually give you the right to copy the music does it?

    So this deal isn't likely to happen soon - and if it does it will be too late for the industry to get much in return - they will look irrelevant by then.

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

  18. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 11:28am

    Re: Compulsory license is fine

    "The compulsory license is a great idea."

    Then you'll love my "compulsory break your left big toe" idea. It's much less than a kneecap! And probably not even your dominant big toe!

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

  19. identicon
    Richard, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re: Why should I pay?

    In Canada, if you are deaf do you get your tax back?

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

  20. identicon
    CrushU, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Maybe they don't know

    I would bet on this as well.

    I'm in college now, and I have no clue, though I read the billing statement carefully. There's a technology fee, but that could be anything from computers, having a network in place, the campus radio station...

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

  21. identicon
    alternatives(), Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 4:56am

    If I want to pay for any music that is 'pirated'

    All I have to do is put it on a CD labeled 'for music'. Thus the "music industry" is compensated.

    (And if I ever won the lottery I'd open up a bar JUST so I could pick the 'pay a tax per song' option and have the RIAA have to then account for payments to all the old artists. Then contact as many of 'em as I could 3 years later and ask about their royality checks.)

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

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