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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Who needs products when you have government?

The latest great idea from ‘digital-strategy consultant’ Jim Griffin, who is advising the Recording Industry Association of America on new and innovative ways of rent seeking, is to propose a piracy surcharge on ISPs in the USA.

Of course the advantage of that is if all broadband users have to pay the music industry $5 per month, regardless of whether or not you actually download any music, legal or illegal, why bother promoting music at all? Who needs products when you can just force people to pay you regardless? Is it great that we have governments around the world who are in a position to actually try and do stuff like that?

19 comments to Who needs products when you have government?

  • the other rob

    Bloody stupid idea, for several reasons:

    1. It devalues the product.
    2. It forces a move from a transaction based market to a taxation model.
    3. A disproportionate amount of the (lowered) revenue left available to the industry gets eaten up by the collecting societies, which…
    4. Being bureaucratic in nature, eventually become parasitic upon the industry they were established to serve.

    That’s before we even touch upon the fact that it is, in essence, a soviet model (which is probably why various neo-lefty types love it) and therefore, sooner or later:

    5. The state, or its sock puppets, start influencing the allocation of receipts in order to achieve a “social good” by discouraging the production of creative works which are disapproved of.
    6. You’ll know when we’ve reached point 5 by all the cries of “Won’t somebody think of the children!!!”

  • RobtE

    Absolutely, Perry. Why, just look at the Beeb.

  • I thought this was what the BBC does, until I discovered Samizdata (had noticed it at well…)

    Is it not also what “local councils” in the British Soviet, also do? “Road maintenance”, “The Police Precept”, “education initiatives”, etc etc et5c etc.

  • Paul Marks

    I usually say that the reason so many people in commercial enterprises are statists (i.e. support more government spending, taxes and regulations) is because of the education they got from school and college and its reenforcement by the mainstream media.

    However, there is also stuff like this.

    Support statists (with campaign contributions or just speeches and so on) and they may reward you with corrupt tax (sorry “levy”) subsidies such as this one.

    Why should music industry people work out how they can make a living in the modern world if they can just get the government to impose a tax for them?

    The mainstream media will need such a tax soon – the way the leftist newspapers and NBC news is going.

    “We provide a vital public service for our democracy – it is an outrage that we have to depend on the chaos of the marketplace for resources”.

    Yes I can see it now.

    And Hollywood as well – after all why should the film companies bother with things like cutting costs (such as the money they pay to leftist actors) just because ticket sales do not make them a profit anymore.

    I am sure that the taxpayers have a duty to save the great American cultural institution that is Hollywood.

  • Plamus

    Hat off to Paul Marks – bull’s eye.

    Additional consideration (touched on by the other rob):

    A collecting agency would divvy up the money according to artists’ popularity on P2P sites, just as ASCAP and BMI pay songwriters for broadcasts and live performances of their work.

    And they will monitor this “popularity” how exactly? By politely asking the P2P services to share data? By breaking encryptions? Good luck with that, wishful thinking. Hence, expect anti-intuitive results, like bot-nets getting into the “business” of endlessly swapping music files, rather than launching spamming or phishing scams or DoS attacks. Calling Jim Griffin’s proctologist.

  • Can someone explain to me what the deal is in Britain with the “TV Tax” thing you guys have? It seems relevant to this conversation.

    I am sure I can find some sort of explanation online somewhere else, but I would prefer to hear it from someone here as far as what the consequences are for not paying it.

  • the other rob

    Tman wrote “I would prefer to hear it from someone here as far as what the consequences are for not paying it.”

    The answer is, they’re the same as the consequences for any other crime of not handing over one’s wealth when the state demands it. Nothing even remotely like a fair trial and penalties that are vastly more severe than those for committing violent or property crimes against a private individual.

  • Julian Taylor

    Actually I might just welcome such a surcharge, if only for the schadenfreude I would experience at the sight of the “Big 5″ music labels ripping each other to shreds in court over how much each one is entitled to as a percentage of the proceeds. “Originality” in the music industry is now very much a foreign country I’m afraid.

  • My only regret is that this initiative will come too late to benefit Heather Mills.

  • Thanks Alisa, sounds about what I remembered. I see that they have now disguised the “television detector vans” which is close to some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard of.

    I guess what this tells me is that people in the UK appears to have more problems defending personal liberties than I imagined.

    “Television detector vans”? Pitiful.

  • RAB

    Television detector vans”? Pitiful.

    Yet they have saved the peace in Europe since 1953! ;-)

  • sabrina

    It’s nice to live in a world where democracies (without a popular vote, mind you) will enact a law that benefits a few large corporations, at the expense of the taxpayer. I love how the government has given the recording industry the right to tax, jail, or demand inordinate sums of money from its citizens.

    And the line from the article where the lady implies she’s doing this so the “artists” get paid, bulls**t. The artists will never see a dime of that money, they haven’t seen any yet.

  • Sunfish033@comcast.net

    Surcharges and fees have their place.

    For instance, every Samizdatista now owes me a buck for the size 12D Danner Acadia that will need to be surgically removed from Jim Griffin’s rectum.

    Cough it up, guys. These boots aren’t cheap.

  • Bill W

    We have something like this in Canada, where the recording industry lobbied for, and got royalties on blank CD’s. They have not been entirely pleased with the results however as courts have taken the line that if the royalty has been paid, then some permission to copy is implied. This has fallen out to mean that , if you are in legal posession of the original, you can make as many copies as you like; and legal posession includes borrowing. These rulings are under appeal of course.
    The last time I heard anything about it., they were still fighting about how to divide the loot.

  • the other rob

    Bill W’s comment raises an interesting point. It can be a mistake to think of particular industries (music, film, books etc.) as vertically homogeneous groupings sharing a common view on levies.

    Historically, industries in the Anglosphere have been divided along horizontal lines. While collecting societies have favoured levies (which would, incidentally, boost their turnover), those who manufacture and sell product in the market have opposed them.

    The Canadian thing was driven by collecting societies, not record labels et al. What’s newsworthy in this story is that we see record labels supposedly considering supporting levies, a complete reversal of position. Personally, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    Matters are different in Europe, of course. Ah, those funny continentals, with their levies on blank media and their Cultural Exception…

  • At what time do we argue that the “Piracy Surcharge” has become an Unlimited Download License-?

    When the Beeb charges it’s license fee you are not limited to hours of use… Flat rate-unlimited downloads…

    I don’t think they considered the unintended consequences of such a fee…

  • Jurica

    Here in Croatia we have “Piracy tax” on writable media (CD-R, DVD+-R) that goes straight into coffers of ZAMP (local RIAA equivalent). One company posted billboard ads claiming it was a form of theft, and they got shouted down by lawmakers…

  • JimD

    The more things change, the more the RIAA stays the same. Does anyone remember the home taping tax they proposed in the 1980s? They wanted a $1 tax on each blank cassette tape sold on the theory that the only reason anybody would buy one was to copy music. At the time they viewed its passage as vital to the future of the industry