Copyright

by Glyn Moody


Filed Under:
copyright, levies, portugal



Portuguese Artists Association Struggled To Get Even 100 Members On List In Favor Of Exorbitant New Private Copying Levies

from the idea-whose-time-has-passed dept

Few ideas display a sense of entitlement better than that of private copying levies. For they assume, by definition, that artists' representatives have a right to money from the public simply because there is some kind of storage that could be used to hold digital copies of copyright files, and that every time such a file is copied, money must be paid (never mind if you are just making backups or transferring your holdings to bigger storage sizes.)

This is based on the outmoded idea that the public are simply consumers, and ignores the fact that today they are also creators. Take digital photos, for example: since there is no cost involved in taking as many pictures as you wish -- unlike in the world of analog photography, where film and processing expenses act as a brake on creativity -- a typical collection of family snaps can easily run to many gigabytes. Moreover, most digital cameras also allow videos to be shot, and these generate even larger quantities of data. As a result, an increasing proportion of the data stored on devices has nothing to do with commercial works, and yet the full levy must still be paid.

A further problem is that the capacities of hard disks are now so large that even relatively low per-gigabyte rates generate significant additional costs when applied to disks with terabyte capacities, say. A case in point is the amended scale for Portugal's private copying levies, announced last month. According to an article in Exame Informatica (original in Portuguese), a 1 terabyte hard disk currently priced around $90 will cost $120 under the new scheme, while a 2 terabyte hard drive that costs $130 now will go up to $200. But this isn't just about hard drives. USBs, smartphones and even multifunction printers will all be subject to the new levy.

Naturally, the prospect of these surcharges is proving unpopular with the Portuguese public. And so the SPA (Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores -- Portuguese Society of Authors), which represents Portuguese artists in all areas -- music, audiovisual, dance, plastic arts and cinema -- decided to show how the country's creators really backed the move. The Portuguese blogger Miguel Caetano Carlos Martins describes what happened:

SPA has tried to validate their point by presenting a list of one hundred authors and artists that support this PL118 law. There's no denying that some author might think its a good idea... even though it might look suspicious that they could get only a hundred of them among their 25k+ registered members; and even though that roughly 20% of those 100 are the association board members; the really horrendous part is that we now found that some of those names were put there without any consent from the authors!
[Update: there are now apparently 200 names on the list - still rather a poor showing for such a large association.] If even a national organization for all categories of artists can't muster genuine support for such measures, it's clearly time to get rid of the whole antiquated approach. Inflated prices for digital devices will be a real drag on innovation in Portugal at a time when it is trying to modernize itself. Moreover, the manifest lack of enthusiasm for the SPA's attempt to mobilize support for the higher levies suggests that the creators themselves derive little benefit from the scheme.

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  1. icon
    fogbugzd (profile), 16 Feb 2012 @ 4:23pm

    The artists probably figured out that most of the money would be sticking to the pockets of the collection society, and very little would make its way through to them. Plus, the artists themselves are likely to be big users of the media that is being taxed.

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