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Spain Adds 'Copyright Tax' to Blank Media 348

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the angry-geeks dept.
Poker Forums writes "Just read on Zeropaid that Spain has recently voted in compulsory copyright licensing, levying a tax on all blank media. This includes cd-r, dvd-r, flash media, printers, scanners, cell phones, everything. The tax will be collected by the government and 'given to the copyright holder.'"
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Spain Adds 'Copyright Tax' to Blank Media

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  • does that include (Score:5, Interesting)

    by josepha48 (13953) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @09:38PM (#15617640) Journal
    open source and fsf and gnu? If someone buys soem cdr's and burn copies of free software, who gets paid?
  • by alx5000 (896642) <alx5000&alx5000,net> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @09:44PM (#15617667) Homepage
    You'd have to be signed up with your correspondant copyright holding association, or start your own. Of course, since the losses can't be estimated, your share will only depend on your popularity. This means that if you are not well known (or not affiliated to any association) you may not receive a dime. Even if the whole country makes their own copy of your material.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @09:55PM (#15617718)
    If your business model can't survive, get the government to legislates mandatory taxes that get passed onto you. I believe this concept is called either Communism (or similiar controlled economy) or Welfare. I don't know which.

    I would have people make copies of my photos/minor_software_project/whatever on CD-R and then sue the Spanish RIAA if they don't send me my portion of payments. It's really odd that they represent ALL copyright holders. Like they represent ALL musicians, even the ones not signed up with RIAA companies. This RIAA racket has to be taken on and bought down in flames like the Hindenburg one day.
  • by nog_lorp (896553) * on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:05PM (#15617760)
    No, your thinking of an Oligarchy. And yeah, its what we have in most places (certainly america): government run by a small group, usually of businessmen.
  • Re:Some light (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stripe7 (571267) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:11PM (#15617791)
    What about business uses? If I am cutting DVD's to be shipped to a client that contains blueprints, materials analysis results etc.. I have to pay the tax or bill my customer for it most likely? If all you put on your recordable DVD's are photos's of you family and home movies you have to pay the tax, or do you get to collect the money since you have the creative rights to your home movies? What determines who gets money? Does anyone with a movie camera get to collect?
  • Re:Some light (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alx5000 (896642) * <alx5000&alx5000,net> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:21PM (#15617845) Homepage
    Business are not allowed to carry out a private copy, and so the tax won't be applied to them. Hell, find someone who works for his own (my father does) and ask them to buy media for you ;)
  • by Freaky Spook (811861) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:31PM (#15617902)
    Following history, revolutions and revolts, society usually seems to get to a certian point before collectivley it gets sick of tax burdons, restrictions on speech and creativity and then either a revolt or a revolution is staged.

    In a digital age where we are dealing with Intellectual Property, digitial censorship and hidden taxes it makes me wonder just what excatly a revolt or revolution against it would be like?
    I can't imagine thousands of people marching through the streets finding government officals and decapating them, but you would think we will eventually get to a point where everything just gets too much.

    We are now in the 21st century and are beginning to see the downsides of all the technology we have adopted, in the late 90's it was promosing, now we are seeing new emerging ways to control us, deny us of fundamental rights and governements seem to be finding new ways to write laws and profit from it.

  • Re:Some light (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Propaganda13 (312548) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:41PM (#15617952)
    I thought the same thing when similar taxes in other countries were passed. If I'm paying for it when I buy blank media, shouldn't I be able to download or copy anything I want since I've already paid for it.
  • by Wes Janson (606363) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:53PM (#15618009) Journal
    I'd say it's closer to a strange form of corporate socialism. Welfare for the megacorps.
  • by acidrain (35064) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:55PM (#15618021)

    As a canadian who pays a similar tax on media, I have to disagree with your assesment.

    This tax is one step further *away* from loosing your right to copy audio files. A step away from legally protected DRM.

    And if you don't like the tax, buy harddrives. They are cheap, less likely to fail, and a lot easier to use. I have 30 movies and 8 *seasons* of television shows on one of my harddrives. Heck I'm too lazy to convert movies to XVID, I just dump them out raw. I have a flash based mp3 player and I set the auto-play options for audio cd's on my PC to just rip the thing. I view CDs/DVDs as an incovenince I am glad to be rid of.

    Considering the pending obsolecence of shiny platic disks, this seems like a good thing for Spain. Enjoy the freedom to do what you want with your data while you have it.

  • Re:Quid Pro Quo? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @10:59PM (#15618043)
    What would be fair is if artists that use DRM and other types of copy protection get nothing from this tax. Presumably, their art cannot be copied so they haven't provided the required license.
  • Re:Some light (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dfgchgfxrjtdhgh.jjhv (951946) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:16PM (#15618114) Homepage
    what about if you pay the tax, does that then give you the right copy whatever you want? you've paid the copyright holder for the privilege.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @11:34PM (#15618173)
    Well I hope for the folks in Spain sake that this "tax" to the copyright holders comes back and bites the copyright police in the ass like it did in Canada.

    They thought they had a good deal until they tried to sue someone for downloading mp3's. That was ultimately one of the best you outsmarted yourself scenarios Ive ever seen. :)

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @12:02AM (#15618308) Homepage
    Big Money.

    Mark me as redundant by saying so if you like, but I don't think it can be said enough.

    There are two things wrong with this action:

    1. If the copyright organization (cartel?) can continue with civil and criminal law suits for infringement, then it is clear that this measure is not for the purpose of compensating copyright holders for illegal activity. (Theoretically, I should be able to purchase blank DVD media in Spain and set up a business where I copy copyrighted material and sell it to the public at an attractive price. After all, would I not have already paid for the right to do so by purchasing the media in Spain?)
    2. If there is no way to know which artistic works are to be copied, then how will the money find its way to the artists whose works are being illegally copied? The answer is obvious. The money doesn't go to compensate artists, and if it does, it won't go to the artists affected in correct proportion.

    I hope to see some serious retaliation against the "copyright industry." They have been going too far for too long. They write their own laws, they collect their own taxes, they perform their own criminal investigations and all but convict in their own courts. If ever there was something out of control, this situation defines it.
  • Re:does that include (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @01:01AM (#15618594)

    That's an interesting line of thought. Since practically every original thing that's written down is automatically copyrighted according to the Berne convention, most people are copyright holders.

    Suppose I, as a Brit, wrote to the Spanish government, demanding my cut for people writing stuff copyrighted by me to CD. Would they ask me for evidence that my copyright is being infringed? I expect so (assuming I even get a response).

    Which leads me to my next question. Do they ask music labels for evidence too? If so, then this law would accomplish nothing, as, if the music labels can acquire evidence, they could bring this matter to a civil court instead.

    But I expect they don't ask music labels for evidence, in which case, I have to ask: what makes a record label a special kind of copyright holder that is entitled to get money without evidence? Are all record labels special or just some?

    If just some are special, what separates them from other record labels? Are they incorporated differently in Spain, or did they just pay the politicians more? Is it their market share, in which case why does the law only protect the companies that need it least and ignore the ones that are struggling?

    If all record labels are special, would I get a cut if I simply recorded myself banging some pots and pans together? Or do I have to reach a particular chart position? If the latter, why should the law protect those that market aggressively and ignore those that are content to avoid fame?

    Let me take a guess: there exists in Spain a single umbrella organisation like the BPA or RIAA that includes enough major record labels for politicians to be able to get away with calling them "the music industry", while ignoring the rest of the music industry. That organisation is responsible for persuading the politicians to pass this law that either mentions them by name or was passed with the understanding that they'd get the money. This law isn't intended to protect rights but to protect a couple of particular special-interest organisations. Am I right?

  • by riflemann (190895) <riflemannNO@SPAMbb.cactii.net> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @03:53AM (#15619238)
    If I buy blanks to archive data to which I own the copyright (eg photos, home videos, etc)...

    can I claim a tax deduction?
  • Re:Some light (Score:1, Interesting)

    by jacobw (975909) <slashdot@org.yankeefog@com> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:28AM (#15619335) Homepage
    And SGAE, of course, will use the money not to pay the authors, but to spread the word through adoctrination lectures, or to pay for lobbies to bully Brussels, or to cry louder about how bad people is and how poor authors are getting (despite SGAE's doubling benefits every year...).
    Do you have any evidence for this, or are you just leaping to conclusions?

    The fact is that previous levies on blank media actually have gone to artists. Here's how it works:

    In the US, it's possible for artists to sign away all rights to their work. Screenwriters (and, I think directors, although I'm not sure) sign a "Work for hire" contract, which basically says that the studio is the author of the script and gets all the rights. In Europe, however, artists have certain inherent rights that they can't sign away. As a result, some huge chunk (I think 50%) of the European levies on blank videotapes and video tape recorders have gone to the "authors" of films and TV shows; that authors' money has been split between screenwriters and directors. This has been a huge source of income for writers and directors. In fact, it has been enough money that the Writers Guild of America had to set up a specific department to deal with disbursing it, and it is still having problems getting the money out fast enough.

    So--you ask--how do you determine who gets the money? The assumption has been that people use VHS tapes to record what is broadcast on TV. So, if a German network airs "Serenity," then you'd divide the film's 119 minute runtime by the total number of minutes aired on all of German TV that month, and then pro-rate Joss Whedon's share of that month's levies accordingly. Now, it's fairly easy for the Writers' and Directors' Guilds to figure out who wrote and directed "Serenity" but it's trickier with TV shows. Often, a foreign network will just report that they aired an episode of,say, The Simpsons, and the WGA will have to figure out exactly which episode aired in Monaco last Tuesday at 4AM before they can pass the money on to the writer...

    Ironically, if you buy a movie on DVD, the writer gets a tiny fraction of your purchase price, but when you buy a blank VHS tape, writers and directors actually get a sizable chunk of the levy! I've heard a lot of people justify copying of digital media by saying "The artists don't actually get the money--it just goes to some big corporation." Well, in taxing blank media, the governments of Europe have listened to you, the copyer. I'm sure now that everybody knows the artists are getting their money, we'll all stop complaining.

    Oh, and by the way--it's not just millionaire writers and directors who are benefitting from this. Take a look at your local TV grid, and you'll notice a hefty chunk of old stuff being aired. If some classic movie from 1940 airs on late-night TV in France, it's going to result in what is probably the first payment the elderly writer (or his widow or children) made from that movie in decades. These sums aren't going to be huge--I read that Preston Sturges' [imdb.com]widow is owed something like $250--but they are there. In a sense, the levies result in a long tail kind of thing, where writers and directors who didn't necessarily write the latest big blockbuster still get money when their work is viewed.

    There are a few issues in transferring this system from VHS levies to levies on digital media. It's a safe assumption that most VHS tapes are used to record stuff off TV, so it's fair to distribute the levies based on what is being aired on TV. However, I'm guessing most blank DVDs and CD-Rs are used to burn stuff that was obtained over the Internet. I have no idea how you measure that, and I suspect there is going to be some lively debate within the WGA, the DGA, and whoever ends up distributing money to musicians. But it seems likely that this money will indeed end up in the hands of creative people rather than suits.

  • Re:Answer me this: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SargeantLobes (895906) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @04:57AM (#15619403)
    If this is true then this is madness, and needs to be challenged before it spreads.

    Too late, In my country (the Netherlands) we allready have this silly little law, and many other contries do too.

    The foundation that's supposed redistribute the funds to artists is under alot of fire though. They lost about 30% playing on the stock-market, and it's unclear how it's determined who gets what.

    Meanwhile I just choose to import levy-free dvd's from Germany. Shipping isn't even a factor, I can buy the same quantities I buy in a normal store, and it'll still be half the price.

    Many people in my country don't even know this levy exists though, they just except the price, and since that's what everybody's charging, it's completely acceptable to them.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:08AM (#15619571) Homepage
    I've got no kids but I pay for education, I have no car but I pay for roads...

    Why should I be paying just because some selfish people decide to have kids/drive?

    If you start fighting taxes for services you don't use, you'll end up a very bitter and lonely person.

  • Re:Some light (Score:3, Interesting)

    by octal666 (668007) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:42AM (#15619650)
    The tax is the same per blank media, no matter what use you intend to put them to. This tax was thought in the eighties to protect authors form cassette copies, and it made sense at the moment, it was legal to copy music if you didn't profit from it. Then came the cd writers and copied music had the same quality than the original, and SGAE started to panic. Now with the P2P technologies the situation is plain absurd, our law gives us the right to copy music not only for private use, but for other, provided you don't broadcast it and you don't make profit, in exchange SGAE receives this tax to compensate for the loses, BUT they collect the tax and use it to fund mischiving advertising campaigns telling that P2P is a crime.

    The news are in part good - tax will be proportional to the price of the media, not to the capacity as was until now - and bad, because now every media will be charged, from the mp3 players to the SD of your camera. The dvds and the cds will remain charged, i don't know if the tax will lower for them now. If some of you is going to travel to Spain, remember to buy your media in advance :)

    By the way, this so called tax, isn't, since it's collected by a private organization from other companies, by law. And it's collected in the name of the associates of this organization, in theory every Spanish author, and is distributed between them in obscure ways. For example, if i borrow from a friend the last CD from U2 and copy it for my personal use, it's legal since in the cd i bought i payed the tax, but this tax money won't reach Bono since he is not a member of the SGAE, probably this money will end funding campaings or in the pocket of the best-selling spanish author in the moment. Anyone thinks this makes any sense?
  • by msauve (701917) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @06:44AM (#15619661)
    17 USC, Chapter 10 [house.gov], Subchapter A, Section 1008 specifically states:
    No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium, an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings.

    Section 1001 defines a "digital audio recording medium" to be:
    any material object in a form commonly distributed for use by individuals, that is primarily marketed or most commonly used by consumers for the purpose of making digital audio copied recordings by use of a digital audio recording device.

    In more common language, this refers to audio/music CD-R discs, which are made to work in digital audio recorders. These discs are different from the more common data CD-Rs, in that they contain special digital markings (standard data CD-Rs won't work in digital audio recorders). In addition, by law a royalty has been paid on this blank media. These royalty payments are in turn distributed to copyright holders (see Section 1006 of the law cited above). They usually cost slightly more than data CD-R discs, but they can be found for less than $0.50 each.

    So go ahead, make copies onto music/audio CD-R discs, even give copies to your friends. You can do so legally and without any moral problems - you've paid for the right to do so. (And the RIAA fought for this law. Thanks, RIAA!)
  • Re:Some light (Score:4, Interesting)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @09:06AM (#15620200) Homepage Journal

    Because some non-infringing uses do, nonetheless, in theory lessen the revenue available to the copyright holder?

    One of the purposes of copyright is to ensure a stream of revenue that can used to fund the creation of the works copyrighted. You can do this by making draconian laws that make it impossible for people to use any copy of anything without the copyright holder's permission, or you can loosen the laws a little but do something to ensure the creators lose nothing from the liberalization of the law. When CDR copying became a substantial phenominem, the imbalance was seen to be upset, and many governments are using a compulsory royalty system to rebalance the system rather than "the other options" which are either to see a net decrease in revenue for copyright holders, or to introduce draconian laws banning CDR copying.

    I'm sure many Slashdotters would rather see a net decrease in revenue for copyright holders, but that isn't a universally held opinion. There are many in the content industry that wish that the government would butt-out, and simply pass on all responsibility for licensing content to them, banning unlicensed CDRs. This is a middle ground that allows the technology to continue to exist while ensuring the content industry doesn't suffer for it.

    Now watch me get modded down for stating the obvious, again.

  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @10:00AM (#15620618) Homepage Journal
    Since the SGAE represents *all* copyright holders and collects funds on their behalf, we should expect the FSF (as the copyright holder of vast amounts of GNU software) and Linus (as the primary copyright holder for Linux) to receive a proportion of that income.

    I actually believe that if there is a branch of the EFF in Spain, they should argue exactly this. Does the law explicitly state what determins is a copyright holder?
  • Re:Some light (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jacobw (975909) <slashdot@org.yankeefog@com> on Wednesday June 28, 2006 @01:17PM (#15622285) Homepage
    You raise a fair point.The levy system on VHS tapes has a certain logic to it; you may have bought blank VHS tapes to record nocturnal rodent activity (and I may have tapes them to dub short films that I wrote and directed)--but you and I are the exceptions. The vast majority of VHS sales is to tape stuff off TV, and you can make a strong case that it is fair to share part of VHS profits with the creators of the stuff that is broadcast on TV.

    But as you point out, blank DVDs and CDs are purchased for a much greater diversity of reasons, and transferring the levy system to DVDs and CDs raises a whole host of questions. I glossed over these questions in my previous post with a little bit of handwaving, and it's entirely fair of you to call me on it.

    Basically, I'm trying to make it clear that the issue is not as black-and-white as 99.9% of Slashdot posters seem to think. In doing so, I should be careful not to make it seem black-and-white in the other direction. But let me state something that I think IS black and white: Historically, a large amount of the money collected by these levies HAS gone to individual artists who can actually use it. That's a fact. It has been divvied up based on what shows and movies have actually aired on TV. That's also a fact. (Obviously, it would be ideal if you could measure which shows are actually being RECORDED, but given that it is impossible to measure that, basing it on the shows that air is probably the best available proxy.)

    Now, on to the gray areas...
    Don't say that that I, or people like me, "deserve" that punishment because other people have done something wrong.
    I didn't say that. I've never heard anybody else say it, either.Frankly, anybody who does say it is an idiot.

    Personally, I don't view these taxes as "punishment" any more than I view property tax or sales tax as a punishment. In the US, property taxes usually go to fund local schools--but you have to pay property tax whether or not you have children. Is that fair? Are you being punished? Or is it just that your democratically elected officials have determined that having well-educated children is good for everybody--and since there is some correlation between local schools and property values, a property tax is as good a method as any for funding that social good?

    You might respond that educating children is a clear social good, while subsidizing artists isn't... and I would I actually agree with you. I have very mixed feelings about government funding of art. But many countries feel strongly that there is a societal benefit to a thriving art and media scene. Many countries in the world have government committees charged with developing the local film industry, and many countries in the world have an official government broadcasting arm funded out of taxes. Some countries even give special tax breaks to writers and artists that they don't give to people in other professions.

    Like I said, I have very mixed feelings about this kind of thing--but if a country has such a policy, and then decides to add a "copyright tax" to blank media, they are being logically consistent with their previous democratically determined policies. (As a side note, I think this is a reason that a government-mandated "copyright tax" is less likely to take hold in the US, a country that has never really been enthusiastic about government funding of the arts.)

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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