[pp.int.general] cultural flatrate: PP position?

Reinier Bakels r.bakels at planet.nl
Tue Jun 2 01:22:23 CEST 2009

Is there a Pirate Parties position on the concept of a "cultural flatrate", as proposed (for instance?) by Volker Grassmuck? It is about the idea that all internet users pay a fixed amount which is subsequently divided among copyright owners (by collective rights organisations).

It may be a practical solution to resolve potentially escalating conflicts and top prevent draconic measures such as the "three strikes" approach, and imprisonments.
But still it seems some sort of capitulation to the record and film industry. The underlying assumption is that copyright remains as it was (during the last decades). I udnerstand why this proposal focusses on music and films, yet I think it is only a very limited subset of all material covered by copyright: HTML files are also copyright protected by default. Which lead to the conclusion that this system will specifically cater for one very specific category of works: the works of producers who managed to make most noise in the political arena.

Furthermore, some of the underlying assumptions seem wrong to me. Like the assumption that (very) roughly anybody over time downloads the same amount (expressed in euro's) per month. Some people may download MP3's like hell, others only access freely available material and paid MP3 stores. and we must not forget that levies on blank carriers are supposed to cover the "free" downloads as well.

A more fundamental problem imho is the problem how to divide the collected money. Volcker Grassmuck argues hat it is feasible to implement a kind of accounting system that keeps track of the downloaded amount of material from different sources, and he proposes to pay the copyright owners pro rata. This assumes a strict econoomic rationale for copyright, which differs from the idea that copyright primarily serves the purposes of fostering cukltural diversty - and payments to authors are just a means to this end. Actually even present law respects that there are also cutural purposes, next to economic purposes, which is e.g. expressed in (statutory) rules that require collecting societies to spend a certain percentage to "cultural" purposes (DE: Urheberrechtswahrnemungsgesetz).

If cultural diversity really is the purpose, imho the above economic model should be abandoned completely. Then the collected money should be distributed solely based on cultural priorities. Not by the collecting societies, because they work primarily for the mass entertainment industry, and the y are hardly democratically controlled.

Effectively, "cultural" (flat)rates are a kind of tax. Subject to the (constitutional) rule: no taxation without representation. That may seem unusual, but this type of scheme is already implemented for public broadcasting: the "flat" rate (NL: in the general means, DE: GEZ) is not distributed by accountants, but by broadcastng policy authorities.

But perhaps such schemes are unattractive for the IFPI and the RIAA: they simply apply age-old tricks of rent-seeking: making a business out of a government loby wich leads to legislation that creates a money stream to these organisations and their members.
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