[pp.int.general] levies

Carlos Ayala aiarakoa at yahoo.es
Mon Mar 24 13:07:50 CET 2008

----- Mensaje original ----
De: Reinier Bakels <r.bakels at planet.nl>
Enviado: lunes, 24 de marzo, 2008 9:50:49
> Copyright levies are becoming a problem:
> http://www.twobirds.com/english/publications/articles/Copyright_levies_Europe.cfm?back
> The EU thinks of 
harmonising levies and has a consultation:
> http://www.twobirds.com/english/publications/articles/Copyright_levies_Europe.cfm?back
> Some people, even in information activists circles such as ours, believe that levies are the lesser evil and should be
> accepted now that DRM has proven infeasible.

Sure there may be, as well as I'm sure that not likely in PIRATA and Parti Pirate, for instance, as if you ask French and Spanish about SGAE and SACEM, and the harm caused by those and simmilar RMOs, I'm sure that would answer that levies are the opposite of a solution.
> A major problem with levies 
is the fundamental impossibility to have a just basis for tariffs.

That's, indeed, a big problem, though maybe not the biggest one. The biggest one, we believe that lays in the very concept of private copying levies: they're meant to compensate a hypothetical loss caused to copyright holders by private copying -if that hypothetical loss comes to be large enough, because as 2001/29/EC directive states, "in certain situations where the prejudice to the rightholder would be minimal, no obligation for payment may arise"-.

So, before even considering how should we pay levies, we should ask ourselves ... why? Are we really causing copyright holders enough losses -or even losses at all- to justify the payment of levies? For us in PIRATA, non-lucrative filesharing and CD copying is as harmful for copyright holders as listening to a radio station, watching TV or lending the CD/DVD/book you bought to a friend -i.e., nothing at all-. Non-lucrative private copying does not takes money or material goods from copyright holders, it only means the exact copying of inmaterial -non property- things, thus we consider it harmless, and within civil law no loss no compensation.

> Usually the tariff is per unit of storage (byte), but the relationship between value of the work and the amount of storage
> needed is very indirect. A PDF file is much larger than an ASCII file with the same text, even if the author effort is
> exactly the same. And as the price per byte of storage media decreases all the time due to the development of
> technology, the levy portion increases. 2/3 of the price of a blank DVD is levies, and it will perhaps be 90% o the next
> generation DVD. This favours illegal trade.

In Spain levies already are about 100 % of CD/DVD price (0'17-0'23 €/unit for CDs, 0'45-0'60 €/unit for DVDs); and you're right, when you ask a trader or manufacturer to pay a tax which represents the same amount as the money received for the sale of one good -considering that, if a CD is sold for 0'20 €, the trader/manufacturer are not having a benefit of 0'20 € per unit, but only a benefit of few cents per unit-, he has only three choices:

- (legal) lose money, close the shop/industry -legal, but insane (are our MPs willing to?)-
- (barely legal) include the cost of levies in the final price -the conculcation of law wouldn't come from traders/manufacturers, but from RMO's and law writers, who set traders/manufacturers as levies debtors, but at the same time established levies impossible for debtors to be paid-
- (certainly illegal) sell the goods at the black market

> Finally, the distribution of the levies collected is a major problem. It is expensive (high "transaction cost"), and how
> should thise levies be distributed? One of the purposes of copyright is to foster culture, but levy systems usually only
> look at numbers, so that rich popular artists are favoured and become even richer. Cuktural values may differ from
> economic values.

Before discussing the collection/distribution of levies issue, we in PIRATA think that, as I commented above, discuss the very existence of levies at all, that is, only if we are forced to -for instance, if after 2009 we come to have few MPs at Strasbourg to abolish levies-, we should then talk about how that levies would have to be defined, managed, collected and distributed. What do you think about it?

> Sometimes I believe that a "Verelendung" strategy (an old Marxist concept) may be helpful: advocate a levy on blank
> paper! An claim a portion of copyright levies for the text contributed to mailing lists, such as this one!

Do you mean reductio ad absurdum? Yes, of course, and it won't be quite hard as levies are already absurd :)

> And on a more serious level: the basis copyright premise that ALL copies are entitled for a copyright (even if I make a
> copy of my own *LEGAL* CD onto my MP3 player!) should be questioned. It is ridiculous in the digital age

That's another absurdity of levies supporters: if you hear SGAE spokesman Pedro Farré, he uses to state that private copying, not talking about filesharing, not talking about giving copies to your friend, but talking about -as you do- making copies for your own use -one CD for your car; one set of MP3's archives for your iPod; another CD for your PC to be played when browsing- causes losses to copyright holders ...

... because -according to Farré's words-, it would mean that the CD (plastic unit) owner wouldn't have bought two additional CDs and the corresponding songs at iTunes!!! It's insane, and it proves that they're not just wrong, but they're also liars. They're not defending authors, they're defending plastic -music CDs/film DVDs- producers, as SGAE and other RMOs turn to be company unions -once upon a time, SGAE was the acronym for Sociedad General de Autores de España, Spanish General Society of Authors; now, it's the acronym for Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, General Society of Authors and Editors (i.e., entertainment industry)-. Thus, in the apparent name of authors, Spanish RMOs are serving entertainment industry's interests, and the most surrealist thing is that they are mercilessly attacking internet users' lobbies accusing them of working for technological industry and for ISPs -one example was Sony-BMG Spain Chairman, Carlos López, who
 (apart from calling P2P users robbers) directly accused Internauts Association Chairman of receiving funds from ISPs (Spanish) in exchange for defending their interests and not the internet users' interests. 

When you come to find out that in a 80.000 members association like SGAE, only 600 of their members -the bestselling authors, like Miguel Bose, Alejandro Sanz, David Bisbal, etc- have more than 50 % of voting rights, you come to understand two things:

- it's normal that not only those 600 bestselling authors defend levies, but also that they founded a lobby before 9-M Spanish General Election called PAZ -very interesting to find Sabina, Victor Manuel and Ana Belen, three former communist United Left party supporters, now supporting Zapatero; maybe levies and €€€€ related event?- to support Zapatero -as PSOE is a to-the-bone fanatic levies supporter-
* a very sad political panorama in Spain, as the biggest opposition party in Spain, PP, defends removal of levies ... in exchange of enhancing DRM and turning private copying into backup copying

- there are 55.000 members of SGAE that don't receive a cent from levies; there are 72.000 members of SGAE that don't have right to vote in SGAE Assembly or to choose SGAE Board members (Spanish); authors -the majority of them, not the bestselling ones- are being crushed by RMOs and entertainment industry, so they are at the end victims of this hordes just like us -because attacking the very concept of Intellectual Property does not mean to attack author's rights (moral and material rights), as such rights are declared in the Unversal Declaration of Human Rights and we defend Human Rights; we in PIRATA defend author's rights (as well as the need of redefine some of them, like shortening the lifespan of commercial rights), as well as reject the using Intellectual Property (as using it would mean to accept the related issues, like levies, non-lucrative sharing interdiction, etc) to define inmaterial goods that even libertarians (the biggest private
 property defenders on the Earth) reject to define such goods as private property, as such goods doesn't match the scarcity criteria-.

This is the scenario, and in PIRATA we believe that not only citizens in general, but authors in particular have to be defended from the abuses of RMOs, entertainment industry and traditional -current MPs- politicians. Regards

                                                                                 Carlos Ayala
                                                                                  ( Aiarakoa )

                                                         Partido Pirata National Board's Chairman

P.D.: Do we have until April 17 to answer the EC consultation on levies? Even earlier? Then we should start working on it now.

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