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Germany's New Internet License Fee 371

PapayaSF writes "Beginning January 1st, Germany will require payment of a license fee of 5.52 euros a month on computers and mobile phones that can access TV and radio programs over the Internet. Like the current TV and radio license fees, the money will support national and local public TV and radio stations. German companies with many computers are predictably upset." I'm not sure if this is the same story we discussed in 2004. Did this original fee go through, and this is another fee on top of the original?
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Germany's New Internet License Fee

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  • by Mostly a lurker ( 634878 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:34AM (#16534260)
    There are a few ways that a business computer could be made unable to receive TV or radio streams. Are these sufficient to avoid the tax? Enquiring minds want to know.
    • Unfortunately not. With TVs, you still have to pay even if you remove the
      tuner, because you could theoretically solder it back in..
      • by cshark ( 673578 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:42AM (#16534316)
        I wonder how long it will be before England and France who both have similar taxes on Television adopt something like this.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Shano ( 179535 )

          I recall a couple of years ago the BBC said something along the lines of "if you stream TV clips then you need a TV license". I don't think there was talk of legislating it, however.

          Note that the UK does have exceptions for TVs owned by businesses and used exclusively for prerecorded video. There are various forms to fill in, and it's checked fairly regularly. Something similar should apply to computers, although I'm not sure you can "neuter" a computer in the same way as a TV (unplugging the aerial, us

          • by isorox ( 205688 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @04:12AM (#16534690) Homepage Journal
            I recall a couple of years ago the BBC said something along the lines of "if you stream TV clips then you need a TV license". I don't think there was talk of legislating it, however.

            Only if it's been broadcasted to the UK at the same (or similar) time. I.E. Downloading an specific episode of "the Simpsons" that's being broadcast on C4 at 6PM, or Sky One at 7PM, is only OK outside of that time.

            Note that the UK does have exceptions for TVs owned by businesses and used exclusively for prerecorded video.

            No, the UK has exception for any TV's that aren't used to receive broadcast video. The wireless telegraphy act and it's ammendemnts specificaly state it's the USE of euipment to RECEIVE BROADCASTS that needs licensing.

            There are various forms to fill in, and it's checked fairly regularly.

            The TV License people have no legal right to "check" you. They can gather any evidence that they legally can (look through your window, scan for the IF, etc), and present it to court. To enter your property they need a search warrant.

            Something similar should apply to computers, although I'm not sure you can "neuter" a computer in the same way as a TV (unplugging the aerial, usually. Ripping out the tuner is a bit drastic).

            Yes, if you have a TV that's not tuned in to the local transmitter and not plugged in, that would be enough to satisfy any court. Of course as long as you don't watch the TV, and don't let the TVL people in, there's little they can do to proove you are or arent watching.

            With TV over IP, I suppose they could look at getting the ISP to provide logs, however that would probably break the data protection act. Their only real evidence would come through watching your through a window.
            • by Tim C ( 15259 )
              scan for the IF... Of course as long as you don't watch the TV

              Are you referring to the myth that TV detector vans could pick up signals from working TVs? They can't; that was a lie to try to scare people into complying. The antennae on the vans were purely for show.

              Of course, these days when you buy a TV you have to give your name and address (no idea what happens if you refuse), so they automatically know who owns a TV and don't need any of that silliness.
              • by tricorn ( 199664 ) <sep@shout.net> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:03AM (#16535600) Journal

                I have no idea if they actually do detect it, but it isn't very difficult to pick up a signal from a CRT to detect the horizontal/vertical scan and the picture signal; you can correlate that with what is currently being broadcast to be able to show that someone is watching broadcast TV. Doesn't work if you're watching something you recorded off-the-air, though.

                I remember an article a year or two ago about being able to reconstruct a TV image simply from the incidental light being reflected off the walls, similar technique. I can't locate the article, though.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by jrumney ( 197329 )

                Of course, these days when you buy a TV you have to give your name and address (no idea what happens if you refuse), so they automatically know who owns a TV and don't need any of that silliness.

                They still use the vans, or at least did 5 years ago when I didn't own a TV, and had told them so half a dozen times already (they send out demands for payment every month to any address that is not already paying) before giving up and throwing any mail from TV Licensing straight in the bin. I arrived home once

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by gweihir ( 88907 )
                Are you referring to the myth that TV detector vans could pick up signals from working TVs? They can't; that was a lie to try to scare people into complying. The antennae on the vans were purely for show.

                Actually they can. But they need to look at what is in the image in order to determine whether it is a TV receiver or merely a (fee free) TV monitor. And for that they need a court order which they will usually not get....
            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@noSpam.world3.net> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @05:59AM (#16535252) Homepage
              The parent is entirely correct. If you don't watch broadcast TV and don't want to pay the licence, the best thing to do is to write to the TVLA and state that, while you do own a TV it is not tuned and is only used for pre-recorded material (i.e. DVDs) or games consoles etc.

              By law, when you buy a TV or any equipment that can receive broadcast TV, the shop has to inform the TVLA of your name and address. So, by subtracting a list of people who bought a licence from the list of people who own a TV, they can see who has a TV but no licence. They do try to hassle you, but you just need to be firm with them. Tell them "no" once, and then ignore them.

              What it boils down to is that they will only take you to court if they think they can win, and unless they have proof you are watching broadcast TV they won't. Presumably, the same would apply to internet licencing. Unless they can prove you are watching streaming media...
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Linker3000 ( 626634 )
                Nope - not quite right:

                You need a licence if you have any kit that is *capable* of receiving a TV broadcast signal, regardless of whether you use it or not. There have been quirky cases - for example: someone with a black and white TV needed a colour licence because they had a VHS recorder with a colour tuner even though they could only watch in monochrome.

                Having the TV stored in the attic with the mains plug removed does seem to appease them though.

                • by isorox ( 205688 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @08:03AM (#16535890) Homepage Journal
                  You need a licence if you have any kit that is *capable* of receiving a TV broadcast signal,

                  This is a myth that TVL allow to propergate. They used to have an entry on their website saying that's you don't need to to watch offair DVDs/VHS.

                  I suugest you read the relevent laws, but you can also look at the mostly-accurate guardian article here [guardian.co.uk]

                  You need a licence irrespective if you want to watch live television. If you have equipment capable of receiving TV signals and its tuned in you will are required to pay. If you only watch DVDs at home then you are not required to pay. However TV Licensing (TVL) will expect your television not to display BBC1 or any other channels when they come round and turn it on and may question why you have an aerial on the roof. "If you watch live TV on any device, you need to be covered by a valid licence," it says.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Instead of punishing everyone in these countries by taxing them for the few people who actually want to receive the free government programming like the BBC, why not just move this programming to an encrypted over-the-air format and require a special access card and receiver to decode it? Then the only people who could watch these channels are those who actually pay for them? That's what the whole tax is about in the first place right? They just assume anyone with a TV MUST be watching the high quality
        • There was a usenet thread recently in either uk.tech.broadcast or uk.tech.digital-tv (sorry, can't find it at the mo) from someone in the UK who had purchased a laptop with an inbuilt TV tuner then received a letter from the TV Licencing Authorities advising them they need a licence.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Linker3000 ( 626634 )
            No wonder I couldn't find it - it was actually in uk.comp.home-networking:

            "I've just had an aggressive demand from our 'friends' the TVL for a new
            laptop I've just purchased with Windows Media Centre and a t.v. card.
            However the t.v. reception and display is so damned awful that I am
            seriously thinking of getting the t.v. card removed. This test was at a
            location that is IS licensed for t.v. reception, but anyway I'm damned
            if I'm going to pay for a second license just so that I can use the
            laptop elsewhere - eve
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        That's got to be nonsense. BY that reasoning you should have to pay even if you haven't got a TV, as you could buy one any time.
        • by pe1chl ( 90186 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @04:43AM (#16534844)
          That's right. So here in the Netherlands, everyone has to pay even if he has no TV.
          That of course solves the problem of licensing PC and mobile phones as well.
          • by Jesus_666 ( 702802 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:42AM (#16535794)
            That's not possible in Germany because a fee that every citizen has to pay is a tax and only the states can raise taxes - however, the states may not raise the fees for the public broadcasters because if they would they'd be able to influence them, which is not desired. (And I think it's rather obvious why we want the public broadcasters to be as independent as possible.) Thus the public broadcasters have their own organisation, the GEZ (Gebühreneinzugszentrale; "fee collection center"), which attempts to get money for as many kinds of telecommunication as possible to finance them.
            Of course by now the entire thing has devolved into a question of semantics as the GEZ can more or less get money out of everyone so the TV fee is more or less a tax.

            Oh, and note that while the private broadcasters are usually financed solely through advertisement (pay-per-view and subscription channels are uncommon in Germany) that doesn't mean that the public broadcasters can't show ads in addition to being financed through the GEZ. They are restricted to not showing any ads before 20:00, though, IIRC. But still one onders how much they are independent from their sponsors anymore...

            The real hoot, of course, is that while we have to pay a broadcasting fee for our internet access there is actually little broadcasting done by the public broadcasters on the 'net. The only thing that would qualify as broadcasting would be live streams; websites and MP3s are not broadcasting. Live streams, however, are rarely available and when they are they tend to perform poorly as the public broadcasters' servers and pipes can't handle many connections. Thus the internet GEZ fee is mainly for something that doesn't exist.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Teun ( 17872 )
            Until a few years ago there was a licensing system in The Netherlands similar to the one in the surrounding countries.
            Because the administration of such a system is taking a lot of money it was decided to have the broadcasters paid from general taxation.
            This has been a great success in lowering the cost for the government and less trouble for the TV owners.

            The fact that now people without a TV or radio are paying is true but hardly relevant as they are so few of them.
            And of course taxation pays other ve

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tedric ( 8215 )
        And that's a reasoning by the GEZ I completely don't understand. It's like

        officer: you didn't pay your GEZ fee
        me: but I don't even own a TV
        officer: but you could go out and buy one
        me: WTF?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by netsharc ( 195805 )
          There's a funny IRC quote about this topic [german-bash.org] at German-bash.org . It's in German, but I'll translate. As a background, if you have children here you get some welfare-money (Kindergeld) from the Govt.

          <AndrewPoison> The GEZ attacks once again with their "logic". I have to pay money because I own an internet-ready gadget, even if I don't have an internet connection.
          <AndrewPoison> I guess I'll apply for Kindergeld. I don't have any kids yet, but I have the gadget for it.

          Their logic says the networked

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:37AM (#16534534)
      And how about other types of computers?

      Officer: I'm here to collect the public TV tax.
      Joe: I've already paid for my TV and personal computer.
      Officer: But you haven't paid for your other computers.
      Joe: I only own one computer!
      Officer: From my inspection I have noted that you own 5 pocket calculators, a microwave, a CD player, and a car--all of which are operated by computers.
      Joe: But you can't connect them to the Internet. And even if you could they still don't have monitors to view TV shows on!
      Officer: But theoretically they could, right? I mean if you flip your calculator upside down I can spell 'boobies.'
      Joe: No!
      Officer: C'mon! Don't be so stubborn. C'mon!
      Joe: Well Ok, I'll sell the car so I can pay the fees for my calculators.
      Officer: And by the way, why do you own so many calculators?
      Joe:: So I can write "I see boobies I see boobies."
      Officer: But you only need 4 for that message.
      Joe: I use that one to pay the taxes for the other four.
    • by tmk ( 712144 )
      It's a simple answer: No.

      Some providers and software producers sell anti-fee-products to block the websites of the national broadcasting network - but this is just bullshit. You have to pay when you own an computer who is capable to go online. No filter can prevent this.

    • by iendedi ( 687301 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @05:00AM (#16534932) Journal
      If this tarrif existed in the states it would literally cost me about $200 / month. Between game consoles, clusters of mac minis, laptops, rack-mount machines, media machines, cell phones and whatnot... Yea, I am a little gadget crazy, but perhaps I am just an early adopter...

      We are asymptotely approaching a time when everything is connected to the Internet. If my toaster is connected to the Internet and has audio capabilites (and therefore theoretically capable of receiving and playing audio streams), would I have to pay the license? What about my fridge (many people already have Internet connected fridges with displays)? My washing machine? My iPod?

      This legislation is astonishing. People will stop buying gadgets in Germany if every gadget has a state imposed monthly tarrif associated with it. It makes much more sense to simply impose a household tarrif (or even an individual yearly tax).

      This smells like an underhanded way to get the masses to come out in favor of DRM in Germany to me. DRM presents a solution to the gadget tax!!! Hurray for DRM!!!

      Politicians and Corporate interests are evil when combined.
      • by Wudbaer ( 48473 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:00AM (#16535264) Homepage
        Basically it is a household tariff (still stupid enough). Even if you have a whole wall of TV sets and dozends of computers you just have to pay once. I think they also have changed it in the meantime that the same applies for each site of a company (hooray for lobyyism in that case). However, if you are self-employed you have to pay once for your private stuff, once for business use and once for the radio in your business-used car. Now how stupid is that ?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Jesus_666 ( 702802 )
          Even worse. If you work at home and you have a special room where you work that room counts as a separate place (because workplace \neq home, even if workplace \in home) so you have to pay twice if you have a TV in your living room and a computer in your work room. I think two work rooms still count as one separate place, though.
  • This is outrageous (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Karaman ( 873136 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:34AM (#16534264)
    I wonder who is so stupid to pay for something they dont use? :)
    • by Jessta ( 666101 )
      Damn, when I read the headline I thought it might actually be an internet license that required some form of training(like with cars) before getting a connection.
      Something like that would probably limit the size and number of botnets sending spam.
      pity.
    • @GrandParent: hrmm Social Security? Medicare? Gym membership?

      @Parent: I'm an American. I'm not stupid; my country's been hijacked and I am the victim. My country's president has needlessly invaded another country, lowered my taxes, and increased the country's expenses drastically (among other things) - all against my will.
      BTW - This tax is within Germany, not the EU. They are only victims to what their own government is taxing them for.

      This seems to me to very nearly mirror Canada's blank CD tax to re
  • It's like cable (Score:4, Interesting)

    by A Wise Guy ( 1006169 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:43AM (#16534324)
    Once they own you, they throw commercials at you. Don't ever pay for something when they show commercials.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by donaldm ( 919619 )
      I got Foxtel (Australia) mainly to avoid seeing commercials but in the last few months instead of a break plugging a new or old shows I now see commercials. At least it is not as bad as the commercial channels yet were you can get up-to several minutes per thirty minute segment, this has forced me to actually record what I want to watch and use fast forward on commercials.

      I am actually starting to record Foxtel shows now and while this is ok for now I am seriously considering canceling my subscription and I
  • Corporations (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:45AM (#16534328)
    Note: This is a flat fee. Every corporation has to pay it only once, regardless of the number of computers.
    • Re:Corporations (Score:4, Informative)

      by garry_g ( 106621 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:59AM (#16534380)
      Not completely correct - it is due for each LOCATION that has at least one internet-enabled machine. So, if you have PCs at multiple housing locations, though nobody will be physically present to use any radio, TV or whatever, you are again required to pay for that location.
    • Are you sure? From TFA: ..." licence fee of 5.52 euros (3.70 pounds) a month".
  • by emilv ( 847905 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:46AM (#16534332)
    There's a similar update of the laws in Sweden. This may very well spread to a lot of countries.

    Will the next big thing be an ISP which doesn't give access to the website's of the nations public TV and radio stations' websites?
    Or will even The Pirate Bay and Google Video be recognized as sites where you can access TV and radio programs, thus making any such attempts from the ISPs worthless?
    • by joe 155 ( 937621 )
      We've seen similar things in the UK, although it won't come in until at least the next time they review the licence fee. Even so here, if you watch any TV program off the internet you have to have a TV licence - they were actually threatening to sue businesses who watched the world cup on their computers.

      Here it wouldn't matter if you never access the material which you pay for, you still have to pay for it (so long as it's like TV)...
    • by kasperd ( 592156 )

      This may very well spread to a lot of countries.

      A similar law was passed in Denmark. I think it will go into effect at new year.

      Will the next big thing be an ISP which doesn't give access to the website's of the nations public TV and radio stations' websites?

      I think it would be a great idea. But I'm afraid it is not going to happen.

      Or will even The Pirate Bay and Google Video be recognized as sites where you can access TV and radio programs, thus making any such attempts from the ISPs worthless?

      So now t

      • by pe1chl ( 90186 )
        They probably saw this coming here in the Netherlands.
        A couple of years ago, the separate license free for radio and TV (which we had for many years and was similar to that in the UK, Germany, Denmark etc) was abandoned.
        Now, the public radio and TV are paid from general tax income. So in fact, everyone is paying, even those who do not have a radio or TV or another method of receiving the public programmes.
        The number of people without radio or TV had become so low that this separately collected fee was no l
  • It's the same fee.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by dr.matrix ( 36588 ) <dr...matrix@@@gmx...net> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:47AM (#16534334) Homepage
    .. as in the story from 2004, they just reduced it a bit after a truckload of protests during the last 2 years.
    Maybe a bit more background info from Germany here: this fee is used to support the state-owned radio and TV stations, the privately owned stations don't see a cent. This is supposedly to guarantee the higher-quality broadcasts from the state stations as opposed to the low-quality, market-driven programs from the private stations.. but as somebody who doesn't watch state TV as a principle, I won't pay this s**t.
    • When you are paying the TV fee already, you don't have to pay an extra fee.

      The fee is collected by the GEZ, which is famous to sneak into peoples privacy who do not pay the fees.

      The public broadcasting network in Germany is very big: there are more than a dozen different regional and national TV stations, and about 50 radio programmes. The "state TV" is more critical to the administration than all of the private networks.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        When you are paying the TV fee already, you don't have to pay an extra fee.
        Originally the amount set was the same as for the TV license, then it was reduced to the same amount as a radio license (17 reduced to 6 I think). There were some of good reasons for this:
        • by being so greedy, they had alienated everyone
        • the TV programs are not available on the net, or they are available in such poor quality that a PC is no substitute (unless a TV card is installed, but that is a different situation)
        • radio program
    • by haraldm ( 643017 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @04:59AM (#16534926)
      You miss the point. It's the fact you own a TV that you pay for, irrespective whether you watch the public law channels or not. Maybe it's like, you pay car taxes whether you drive or not. It's unlawful driving an unregistered car, and it's considered unlawful owning an unregistered TV or radio set. That's their logic. (OK, this comparison is lame – it's the ownership that triggers the fee, not using it ...)

      If you already own a registered radio or TV, you are not going to pay additional fees anyway. Only those who are not registered yet will be affected if they own an Internet capable computer. Firewalls, filtering ISPs etc. are very unlikely to help - the fee collecting agency GEZ has been (in)famous for interpreting such obstacles their way consistently in the past (1), and has been successfully suing unregistered TV watchers. This is all regulated by a public broadcasting law for which the Prime Ministers of the German states are responsible. Resistance is futile. :-(

      In the old days when the public TV and radio stations offered more sophisticated broadcasts it was OK to pay these fees IMHO. But nowadays these public stations suffer from decreasing watcher and listener numbers, and try to resemble the private TV and radio stations more and more. There's less and less differentiators that warrant such fees - except maybe the news on ARD and ZDF and the folk music broadcasts if you like them. The radio stations play the same pop and chart crap as everybody else – so-called "Dudelfunk" (roughly translated "tootle radio"). In the Munich/Augsburg area, there is a single radio station that has all the good rock music – but outside of Augsburg you can receive them only via the Astra Satellite, i.e. not when travelling by car (no Sirius offering here, folks). I have stopped listening to the radio (except for the news at times) long ago. >8-(

      (1) They aren't dumb. It's too easy to use a web proxy outside of the ISP's realm in order to bypass any firewall rules. Except if ISPs start filtering the actual content but this requires much CPU and is senseless once you start using SSL.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rollingcalf ( 605357 )
        If they can't reliably tie the tax to who actually uses what the tax is providing, they should just increase the income taxes or VAT by whatever percent or fraction of a percent is required and use that money for the state-supported stations.

        To do it with a tax on devices means you're going to (1) distort the market for those devices (2) unfairly charge people who don't watch or listen to the stations (3) fail to charge people who find ways to get around it (4) intrude into people's privacy to know what dev
  • This reminds me... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by urinetrouble ( 809485 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:49AM (#16534340)
    Of the in Japan that nobody gives a flying fuck about. From this page [3web.ne.jp]: Q. Do I have to pay the NHK man? A. The NHK man is a representative of Japan's state-run television station who goes door to door trying to collect NHK fees, a bi-monthly tax of about 2000 yen that everyone who owns a colour television in Japan is required by law to pay. They are generally very aggressive and threatening, usually sticking their foot in the door so that you can't close it on them, and somehow giving you the impression that dire consequences will ensue if you do not pay promptly. The truth is that although there really is a law, a lot of people in Japan completely ignore it and you can too if you want to. Telling them that you do not watch Japanese TV is not an acceptable excuse, because the law says that everyone who owns a TV has to pay so the best way to get rid of them is to just refuse outright. They are not going to have you arrested and they cannot garnishee your wages so if you don't watch NHK, so you don't have to be intimidated by them. Nor do they have any right to enter your apartment, so if you tell them that you do not have a TV there is no way for them to charge you (be careful if you have a satellite dish though). I predict a similar fate for this one. These laws really are stupidly cussed laws, and everyone knows it. The only thing is that you can actually see if someone is using the internet really easily, unlike a simple TV picking up radio waves. By the way, if this whole NHK tax thing is a big rumour or it's long done with or something, please inform me :)
    • by Tsian ( 70839 )
      However, NHK has now filed several lawsuits with the aim of collecting unpaid fees. The government is apparently also looking at making in mandatory under the law, with garnishing of wages (or other sticks) being concidered.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No, its not long gone, its still around. As are the NHK-men collecting fees. The fee is closer to 3,000yen though, not 2,000. The difference is that now... they are actually taking people to court for not paying. Not everyone, I think so far they have taken 100 people or so to court, as a form of public intimidation. "You could be next." This happened after so many people suddenly decided to STOP paying, after a big scandal that NHK had been using funds for drinking, partying, fake "business trips" et
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wellington Grey ( 942717 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:52AM (#16534354) Homepage Journal
    Like the current TV and radio license fees, the money will support national and local public TV and radio stations.

    Shouldn't the money go to supporting internet related media, like podcasts? If I don't have a TV, why should I be forced to pay taxes that support it?

    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
    • Shouldn't the money go to supporting internet related media, like podcasts?


      The German public broadcasting networks publish a growing number of programmes as podcasts. And the most known podcaster will start soon a radio show about podcasts and blogs. The show is called Trackback [spreeblick.com].
    • Since the tax is on devices that can receive TV content over the Internet, the tax is, by definition going to fund Internet accessible content.
  • It's 2004 again (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sique ( 173459 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:52AM (#16534356) Homepage
    It is in fact the same story. In 2004 the introduction was first discussed, and now it's reality. It's a little more complicated than stated in the blurb though. If you are already paying the fee for a TV set, you have not to pay for the computer. But businesses normally don't operate a TV set, so they are now hit by the fee.
    The fee is due not for watching TV, but for "having a TV set ready for reception of a TV signal". Because the public TV programming is available as an IP stream, every computer that could be hooked to the Internet is "being ready for reception". And don't try to argue that your computer is running Linux and thus not "ready". It is able to run an operating system that could display the TV stream, even though it is not running it right now.
    In general you have to pay the fee only once, independent of the number of "TV ready" equipment you are using. Only if you have some private radio/TV sets and some in your business, the fee is due twice (a car radio in a car used for business for instance has to be paid for in addition to the one in your home).
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ocelotbob ( 173602 )
      Course, this is honestly little more than a money grab. Were the government really concerned about people getting IP-based television service for free, they'd just password protect the IP stream. Course, that would be too easy and fair, and we can't have that now, can we?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sique ( 173459 )
        The government can't do exactly that, because of the Rundfunkstaatsvertrag (Radio State Contract) the TV stream has to be available to everyone indiscriminately. It's not about avoiding getting something for free. No, the whole idea is that the programming should be free to anyone who is ready to receive it, subventioned by the fees of all people who want programming in general, independently of the source of THEIR programming.
        • Twists of logic (Score:4, Interesting)

          by D4C5CE ( 578304 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @04:44AM (#16534850)
          Because the public TV programming is available as an IP stream, every computer that could be hooked to the Internet is "being ready for reception". And don't try to argue that your computer is running Linux and thus not "ready". It is able to run an operating system that could display the TV stream, even though it is not running it right now.
          the TV stream has to be available to everyone indiscriminately. [...] the whole idea is that the programming should be free to anyone who is ready to receive it, subventioned by the fees of all people who want programming in general, independently of the source of THEIR programming.
          Could you enlighten us as to exactly where (deep-link URLs!) those 24/7 live streams for all public stations are? In particular the TV ones...

          Needless to say, if the fee is supposed to be justified by the "programming being made available to everyone (with a license)", then it would really have to be

          • available (under load - and that means during the evening news or blockbusters, and even at the end game's last minute of a soccer world cup)
          • free of Digital Restrictions Management (if only to ensure anonymous access!) and not tied to any particular operating system, let alone a closed-source and expensive one
          • at a fee that is substantially lower than for conventional over-the-air transmissions, as the receiver rather than the sender pays almost the entire distribution/infrastructure this way! (Everyone look at your ISP bills, in particular volume-based ones, or care to compute how many TV sets a day you could buy from the fees charged by German wireless operators for receiving IP streaming video, and Internet access in general, on your mobile phone...)
          Three more things to consider:
          1. Most enterprises just don't have cars where they already pay for radio, so they are hit by yet another fee now.
          2. Typically, in a group or office building, there may be many different legal entities (1..n employees each) per location, each one charged with yet another new fee (and probably then again for their mobile phones, and/or home offices, etc.), separately.
          3. Experience has it that employers who give staff a choice between either doing their jobs or watching TV on company time usually don't exist for long enough to be worth working there (or enjoying the media, for that matter)... Possibly not even long enough to pay the wages "earned" that way (if any)...
            So the businesses' outrage at these surreal fees is quite justified.
  • Better Idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    Why doesn't Germany license the internet like Car Driving. ie To use the internet you have to pass a Test and the pay renewal fees every couple of years.
    Positives from a government point of view:
    1)Eliminate/reduce clueless users supporting spam/virus writers/bot-nets.
    2)YAT Yet another tax for the government
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:03AM (#16534402)
    In germany,

    if you own a device that is capable of receiving public tv or radio than you must
    pay a fee of 17.52 Euro/Month (for tv and radio) or 5.x for radio.
    But you have to pay only for one device even if you own more.
    This money is used to fund the state owned public tv and radio stations across the country

    To my knowledge, we have the worlds most expensive public tv with a annual budget of
    8.2 Billion Euro where 6.5 Billion Euro are coming from the fee (2004 data).

    In 2004 the ingenious people of the public broadcasting sector realized that there are
    now some people watching tv using their computer and thus are not required to pay.
    They got politics to define computers, mobile phones etc. with internet connections as "novel tv devices"
    with the intention of getting the people to pay that dumped their regular tvs for
    computers.

    For some reason this legislation was postponed until 2007 and is now coming into effect.

    Particularly annoying is this new fee for companies. Especially small companies as you
    have to pay for tv devices used by the company an extra time. This means that if you
    work from home and have payed already for your private tv you will have to pay again for
    your business computer with an internet connection.

    This created some offroar now because since around 2005 a company is mandatorily
    required to do the tax stuff via internet, and therefore by law must have a computer
    with an internet connection.

    The offroar was ongoing and recently the public broadcasting people have agreed to lower the
    fee for internet computers from 17.52 (the tv and radio fee) to only 5.x which is the
    fee if you have only one radio.

    For me, running a small business from home, that means I will have to pay about 23 Euro
    a month for public broadcasting ...
  • by Tux2000 ( 523259 ) <alexander@s l a shdot.foken.de> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:05AM (#16534416) Homepage Journal

    It is called "GEZ Gebühr" (fee for the GEZ [www.gez.de], the Gebühreneinzugszentrale - Central for fee collecting, a divison of the public broadcast services ARD and ZDF), everyone in Germany has to pay the GEZ fee to receive radio broadcasts (reduced fee, about 5 Euro per month) or TV and radio broadcasts (full fee, about 15 Euro per month). It does not depend on the number of devices, you have to pay 15 Euro no matter if you own one TV set or 10.000. Some group of persons may apply for exemption.

    The original idea of the "internet fee" was that you could receive internet streams from the websites of the public broadcast services with an internet capable device (not only PCs, but also UMTS mobile phones), so a PC would be equal to a TV set (yes, that's how german politicans think) and you have to pay the full GEZ fee. It simply does not matter if you actually do receive those streams, all that counts is that you are able to recevie them.

    After lots of complaints from nearly every organisation, the "internet fee" was changed to the reduced radio fee. This does not affect common households, because they usually already pay for receiving radio and TV broadcasts, so the PC is "just another TV set". But each and every company that uses even only one PC now has to pay 5 Euro per month for the ability(!) to receive TV and radio broadcasts via internet. A related information: The german tax authorities force you to use an internet capable PC for your monthly tax declaration, so nearly every company now has to pay the GEZ fee.

    Tux2000, nearly becoming mad during the attempt to translate this nonsense into english

  • by macadamia_harold ( 947445 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:05AM (#16534420) Homepage
    Beginning January 1st, Germany will require payment of a license fee of 5.52 euros a month on computers and mobile phones that can access TV and radio programs over the Internet. They're working on something like that in America. Except instead of the fee going to the government, you pay it to Verizon corporation.
  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:45AM (#16534580) Journal
    This hysteria is typical of slashdot and a load of rubbish; Here in Switzerland Computers with internet connections have paid the radio/tv tax for years now, and the sun still shines over the alps. The German law is exactly the same as the Swiss one and works like this:
    Each household pays a monthly or quarterly bill to the state run TV and Radio stations. They pay the same amount no matter how many computers, TVs or radios they have. The bill is one single price per household.
    Each company pays only one bill no matter how many computers or TVs they have. It is NOT based on the number of computers.

    Slashdot and its sensationalist attempts to gather hits and therefore drive up ad revenue make their comments on any news event seem very hypocritical.
    • Bullshit done in the Swiss doesn't make the same bullshit now done in Germany look any better.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by agw ( 6387 )
      That is true. The company pays one 5 Euro fee pr month for all internet computers.

      (It already has to pay 5 Euros per month for each radio in every company owned car and also for every company owned radio-(speaker) in the buildings.
      If you bring your private radio/tv to your workplace, you have to pay the 5 Euros per month yourself.)

  • Since I live in Germany and I don't watch TV as a principle, I think this fee is imbecile and unjust. And unless the penalty for doing this is death or going to jail, I am just not going to comply. The GEZ bastards [google.de] cannot enter your home without your permission, so just tell them to go fuck themselves.
  • The German Government should be more flexible: anything that could in priciple line receive any RF broadcast (even FM/AM radios) should pay the toll!
    My desk phone shows a strange interference case: I can head AM radios! Unluckily (for them) I'm not in Germany

  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @04:15AM (#16534700) Homepage Journal
    The fee is, in fact, not only the same as the one of 2004, it is also the same as the standard radio fee.

    Which means that anyone who already owns a radio won't pay anything in addition.

    The fee affects two groups of people:

    a) Those who have neither radio nor television, but a PC or mobile.
    b) companies, which usually fall into group a) if you want to be nitpicking.

    Since I fall in group a) I will be engaging in civil disobedience next year. Many others will, too. It'll be interesting to see how that goes, because despite their advertisement, the GEZ (the company that collects the fees) does not, in fact, have any powers to actually do their job. They can send you nasty letters and that's about it. They can't enter your house if you don't let them in, for example. They can't return with police to force their way in, even if they claim they can.
  • by viewtouch ( 1479 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @05:02AM (#16534938) Homepage Journal
    Germans must love to pay taxes. They have the beloved Kirchensteuer, or "church tax," which amounts to 8 or 9 percent of taxable income for the 28 million German Catholics. Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish wage-earners also pay a church tax for their churches and synagogues. The German Catholic church was handed a cool $11 billion last year by the German Government and brought in another $5 billion on its own. That's an awful lot of money for an organization of just a few thousand priests - barely 150 new priests are joining the Catholic church annually in Germany these days - the average age is over 60! So what in hell are those old geezers doing with all that dough? And why do the Germans put up with such nonsense?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So what in hell are those old geezers doing with all that dough?

      For example, they run the hospital where I was born. Or the the kindergarten where I went to as a kid.
      In fact, they run many services of social importance.
      They also have a lot of old buildings to maintain (which are often considered as culturally and historically important).

      I agree that the system of the state collecting taxes from members of a church for their church is a bit strange. However, in practice, I think that most people who somehow
  • Violation of freedom (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Toby The Economist ( 811138 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @05:04AM (#16534954)
    This tax is absolutely shocking.

    So, you're sitting there, minding your own business, and the State comes along with what is an absolutely disgustingly expedient excuse of a reason - "your PC is capable of running Windows and is capable of receiving IP and so can be used to view public TV and radio, so you must support that public TV and radio" - and then takes your money.

    It's a money-grab. It's simply a method to extract money.

    It is utterly, utterly disrespectful to the people the State is supposed to represent; they're not being treated as people, but as wallets, to raid.

    It's also absolutely insane from an economists point of view. Taxation inherently discourages growth. There are ways to tax which minimize discouragement. It is absolutely insane to tax in any other way. This tax is criminally stupid.

    Finally, the simplest and most profound issue is that this event has *happened*, with all that it illustrates about the relationship between the German State and the people comprising that State.
  • if 'can' thats a good way to kill the computer/cellphone/pda/etc market there. It also would hurt businesses with a lot of machines.

    If its 'do', then its a good way to kill off the internet in that country. its pretty easy to hide behind a firewall so at least you dont get changed for every pc at home, but it will still be hard on large companies. yet another fee to pass down to its customers. great

    People can only be taxed so much before they revolt. I wonder what the Germans limit is? ( hell, i wonder wh
  • Some Background (Score:2, Informative)

    by twms2h ( 473383 )
    1. The fee is for having a device the could receive radio or TV. It doesn't matter whether you actually use it for that. A few exceptions apply, e.g. for shops selling TVs. But not for e.g. universities using a TV set for playing tutorial films, they have to physically rip out the reception units to avoid the fee.
    2. If you already pay for radio or TV, you don't pay for your computer
    3. The fee is the same as for radio, it was reduced from the much higher one for TV because there were a lot of protests and
  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @05:37AM (#16535148) Journal
    And for TV its not 5 Euro, its more in the range of 20 Euro.

    There are attempts to stop that, but likely they fail. If that is not from the table I will leave this country ... it anoys me to much to get ripped off liek this.
    o I don't own a TV set
    o with a computer you actually can't watch TV, as no single station is even broadcastin into the internet (except some news every 2 hours for 5 or 15 minutes)!!
    o it would be totally simple to use an authentification schema so that only ppl who pay hte fee could recieve (download/stream) TV

    angel'o'sphere
  • by hubertf ( 124995 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @05:48AM (#16535212) Homepage Journal
    A "license" gives you some (more or less useful) liberties for what you pay. In contrast, the German government forces this fee on everyone that merely owns a radio, TV or "internet-capable computer" (which includes things like cell phones!). It doesn't matter if you want to actually access the contents, the mere possibility of doing so is enough for them to ask the money.

    For me, a modern solution would include some settop-box for everyone that wants to access their contents, and they get a card to access it if wanted.

    Comparably, I could put up the software I'm writing on the internet, and ask money from everyone that _could in theory_ download it.

    This whole thing is hillarious! :-(

      - Hubert
  • by euice ( 953774 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:37AM (#16535450)
    Although I do not support that fee, this is not a big deal. Two reason: First: In germany, you pay a fee if you can receive some publicly funded tv or radio stations. If you pay that fee already, you do not have to pay the extra fee for the internet pc, because it is included. The money is then used to fund some tv and radio stations, which are usually of a really good quality and have little advertising before and none after 20h. The news show "tagesschau" for example is by far the most popular tv show in germany. The prices: If you have a radio (and/or an internet pc), you pay 5 euro something per month. if you have a tv, it's about 17 euro per month (radio/internet included). So: You only pay the new internet fee, if you do not have a radio and you do not have a tv. Second: If you don't want to pay, then simply say them you neither have a tv nor a radio/tv. They then come bugging you at the door, but they have no right to enter your house or apartment and even if they see a tv/radio/computer while you opened the door, it could be your neighbours machine. There is absolutely no legislation that is able to force you to pay.
  • In Denmark, too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mutende ( 13564 ) <klaus@seistrup.dk> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:11AM (#16535648) Homepage Journal

    From 1st January 2007 every household in Denmark that has a PC and an Internet connection will have to pay a "media license" of DKK 2090 (EUR 280) annually, even if you don't use your Internet connection to watch TV streams from DR (the national Danish TV station).

    The FAQ (in Danish) is here [www.kum.dk].

    It sucks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      So, the annual fee in Germany is something like 210... 70 less than the Danish annual fee. I think perhabs that WE THE DANES should reconsider how expensive our national TV is. The quality is very high and the total budget is probably something like 1:20 compared to the German.

      But to make me pay the fee, I'd pretty much require:

      Higher quality streaming
      Better Firefox/MPlayer/Totem/Whatever compatibility
      Open standard codecs
      Live streaming of every channel - even when they show movies
      Possibility to watch and do
  • by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:42AM (#16537326) Homepage Journal
    Came to the US in 2004. She says that she told the authorities she was ejecting.
    They replied that, while changing continents was all very interesting, it didn't disprove her ownership of a TV or radio in Germany. (When she was a student in Ulm, she reports that they came by almost monthly, demanding entrance to inspect for gadgets).
    She eventually had to cancel the bank account the authorities were tapping to stop the pain, after she had left the country.
    My sister-in-law, still in Old Europe, is currently forced to prove that she doesn't own any of these gadgets.
    Probably a libertarian argument in here somewhere...

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