It's been a rather quiet few months for SABAM, the Belgian music royalty collection agency perhaps best known (around here, anyway) for its outlandish tactics, including attempting to charge truck drivers a licensing fee for listening to the radio
in their cabs and collecting fees for completely fictional bands
SABAM has thrust itself back into the news today with a return to form, having issued an announcement stating that it will be charging internet service providers for what is, in essence, a "piracy license:
The music group is claiming 3.4 percent of Internet subscriber fees as compensation for the rampant piracy that they enable through their networks.
SABAM pulls this 3.4% figure from an interesting source:
Sabam base their claim on a provision in the Copyright Act of 1994, which states that authors should be paid for any "public broadcast" of a song. According to Sabam, downloads and streams on the Internet are such public broadcasts, and they are therefore entitled to proper compensation. This 3.4 percent share is the same amount as the copyright fees on cable television.
Of course, this just means that all internet users, whether they infringe or not, will be charged extra for their internet service. Not only that, but a 3.4% flat rate assumes every transmission over the internet involves copyrighted material under SABAM's control. And SABAM has made it clear that, although it is using this fee as some sort of "piracy license," it is by no means saying that all users are now free to start (or resume) pirating content.
But even in the event they begin to receive payments, Sabam stresses that any compensation would by no means legalize piracy. The license fee is only meant to legitimize the ISPs part in transferring these unauthorized files.
Of course, this sort of action, if approved, would open the doors for nearly every other group of rights holders to pile on, turning the Belgian internet service into an incredibly expensive luxury, one that punishes the entirety of the population for that actions of a minority.
Even worse, it appears that SABAM is only pushing this "license" forward because it would rather just collect money than explore new options:
The decision of the music rights group to claim a share of subscriber fees comes after they were unable to reach a workable solution in direct talks with ISPs. The ISPs say they would rather focus on offering legal alternatives than quibble over piracy, a point also noted by Minister of Economy Vincent Van Quickenborne.
“The timing is unfortunate, just as Belgacom and others come to the market with a range of legal streaming services,” a spokesman for the Minister said, adding that his department would look into the legal issues.
This is just another example of the "take it out on the ISPs" thinking that tends to rise to the surface way too often with certain rights holders. Ultimately the costs will be passed on to the end user, which turns this from "us vs. the ISPs" into "us vs. our customers," and is that any way to build a relationship?