But the real Problem here is (as almost always when it comes to digital rights) the GEMA. They are the reason why Youtube is almost not usable in Germany (unless you are using some sort of proxying), and that's just the tip of the iceberg as far as I am concerned. Being a former musician myself, I can guarantee that any dealing with the GEMA is nothing short of a PITA. Not only for musicians, but for event managers, shop owners and so on. Their fees are ridiculously high and getting worse each year while their payout to musicians is nothing short of a joke.
Their methods resolve to scaremongering and FUD. They are right up there with the german GEZ, but don't even get me started on those guys.
 http://www.heise.de/resale/meldung/ZPUe-erhoeht-Abgaben-auf-... [GERMAN]
Given this, why should the 99% that are taking their own photos pay a tax to support a record label organization that one of the posts above from a German says doesn't even pay out to the musicians?
But anyways, the same applies to empty CDs, harddrives, DVD-Writers, ... So while I may store more audio on my SD-Cards, others store tons and tons of MP3s on their Harddrives or copy CDs - something I don't do. I still pay for that. I pay a little for what I don't use but they use and they pay a little for what they don't use, but I do. I guess such is life, it probably evens out in the end.
Sidenote: The GEMA is not a record label organizations and it does pay out. There's something horribly wrong in how they distribute the money among their members (the rich get richer, ...) and they keep roughly 20% in administrative costs, but they do pay out.
All of the comments here seem vehemently opposed to the levy mentioned in the article but if it came with an extension of our rights to non-commercially copy and share works then I think that it would be a very fair trade. I would even be relatively unopposed if this was applied to bandwidth usage. Technologically speaking, there's no reason that a person shouldn't be able to go online and check out almost any song, movie, book, or television show in existence. Many, many people are aware of this and with good reason feel that it should be the case. The barrier to this is in the quagmire of licensing that is exemplified by what we've seen go on with Showtime, HBO, and Netflix.
Imagine if the government would stand up and say that universal access to art, literature, and educational materials is important enough that the laws need to be changed to facilitate it. If non-commercial exchange of copyrighted materials was legalized but in exchange bandwidth was taxed and the money paid out as royalties to rights holders based on torrent activity or something of the sort. To me, that sounds like a better alternative than having a country full of criminals. I'll keep dreaming.
I don't live in Slovakia or the Czech Republic but I'm just going to go ahead and say you're wrong.
Hint: starts with "lobby" ends with "ists"
mind is full of...
If the government starts deciding, you make music a communistic business, which would not be good for music.
(For the record, I think the levies as they stand are wrong for the exact same reasons; you just replace the govt with groups like the RIAA.)
One possibility: http://cabalamat.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/a-broadband-tax-fo...
There is one more nutty thing that falls into the same category. From January 2012 on, every german household has to pay for public TV, even if the household does not have a TV set. The reason is, that you can receive TV programs via internet and thus also a computer is a TV (well - ...).
So also the TV stations, by simply broadcasting their stuff for free in the internet, managed to get an extra tax. Although, there is no medium like the internet where it is easier to make users log in and let them pay exactly for what they use.
(Note: I indeed never owned a tv set. I indeed watch the daily news on my computer and I'd be happy to pay for this. But only for the news, not for the remaining crap).
I think the new system is much more reasonable than the previous system, which had loads of people claiming they don't own any kind of receiving device when that claim is just patently absurd for almost everybody today. This was different in the 50s or 60s where not everybody had a radio at home, much less a video device. Today it's just a system that rewards dishonesty. It also lead to an expensive byzantine bureaucracy (the GEZ) just for collecting the public broadcasting fees and snooping (in person!) after people who say that don't own a TV/radio/whatever.
What is crazy is that they didn't get rid of the GEZ when they changed the system, but I assume that'll happen sometime down the road. And of course you're free to disagree with having any public broadcasting system at all, or that it should be financed differently (I agree). But the previous fee system was just broken and needed to be fixed.
This is the only situation I know, where a company distributes their product for free and then asks everybody to pay for it. This is a special situation of course, because the public broadcasting has the official task to educate and report in a neutral way. This is welcome - no doubt.
But the presence in the internet and thus on computers is no excuse to collect money from everybody. In contrary, the presence of the internet allows to measure exactly, who is using the services.
In a few years from now, perhaps even today, it would be possible to do the same with the wireless receivers, like TV.
So it would be easy to charge the households who use the service. No GEZ needed any more, but a fair system that charges for usage.
You're not suggesting a strict improvement but a change, and a drastic one at that (essentially equivalent to a privatization), and I imagine you'd need a national two-thirds majority to change the constitution to implement it. I might be wrong about that, I don't know how much leeway there is regarding the implementation.
Just think of it as a tax, as essentially that's what it is, just a special one that bypasses the government to make it more difficult for them to exert influence on public broadcasting.
And I'm not sure why I am supposed to prefer the brainwashing provided to me free by private channels -- free as in I pay for it once with further concentrated brainwashing in 3 minute segments and then once more when I pay the obligatory surcharge on everything because the money for those ads has to come from somewhere.
It worked out somewhat ok. I'd say it's better than the Italian or the French system, but far from perfect. Separation from the government could be stronger, ... All in all I'd prefer to keep and fix it over abandoning the split and turning it all over to a private player or the government.
The GEZ-issue is a completely separate topic. It's about whether we want an independent, not private or state-controlled broadcasting organization. The GEZ-Gebühr is like a special tax to pay for that. There's quite a bit wrong there as well, but alas, that's a different discussion.
The issue is the same: static payment in the form of a tax/obligatory fee, without providing a service. You pay a tax for empty CDs, because you COULD copy music onto them. You pay a fee for public broadcasting, because you COULD use it. The companies are different, but the idea and the mindset is the same. Collecting money, even if a service is not used.
If you disagree on the notion that a public broadcasting organization is required, you're free to lobby for it. Up to now, the democratic consensus in germany is that we're glad to have one, and so we pay for it. I agree that the current way things are organized is royally fucked up, but that's a secondary issue.
Read my other posts and you see that I don't disagree.
This is about how the internet presence is used as a handle to collect money from everyone, not only the users. The fact that public broadcast is transmitted through the internet is everything BUT a reason to collect money from everyone.
Please note, that currently only the users are charged.
If you want to pick on the GEZ system, choose a worthy target, such as the bullies they employ that sniff around and try to find people that don't pay their fees or the annoying letter they send you or the bloated administration or whatever. Or the political dependency of the "independent" broadcasting organization.
Still, my main point is a different one: It's been common consensus and obviously we still agree that a public broadcasting organization is beneficial - independent of whether we personally use it or not. And since we obviously both support that notion, we both should pay for it, as should everybody in germany. Just like for the opera.
Their government is giving them carte blanche.
It is not "You Are All Pirates" tax - this tax allows me to legally make a copy of a work of art for my private use, even if I didn't pay for the original - it is enough that the work of art was already presented in the public [for example, song in a radio, movie in the TV or theatre, etc]. So I can legally have that stored on my HDD, if I choose so. For that, I have to pay the tax, and I am ok with that.
My main point was, that I personally agree with this model, and it is generally not that disadvantageous as the article and many comments here portraits it. Moreover, even the term "tax" is questionable in my opinion, because in this case you are getting rights for private copy of copyrighted content, it's not that you are paying for nothing specific [like in normal taxes].
Those affected and who complained a lot were of course businesses who sell these things. But apparently they were forced into accepting the new taxation.
As a Swede I'm directly affected by that Germany now implemented this slave tax, due to I figured I could import products from Germany instead of buying them in Sweden.
What this seems to imply is that those in power seem to plan this in the EU behind scenes. Keeping it from public as much as possible and using the you are all pirates as an excuse for the extra taxation.
One injustice of levies like this is that the money may not actually go to those who piracy is harming, but instead it lines the pockets of whoever can already afford to lobby for the fee.
In the Netherlands (IIRC) it is distributed to producers of music and film (note: not software).
Just wait until they figure out what dropbox is.
Of every ZPÜ taxed media you buy 1%  of the video associated part of the ZPÜ-fee goes to the porn industry.
This summed up to 1.9M EUR in 2005 and 4M in 2010 including some cumulative special payouts, but its safe to say that the GÜFA gets at least a million Euros a year out of that.  
I'm O.K. with people buying porn, but that everybody subsidizes this by buying storage media has just another quality.
 http://www.heise.de/tp/artikel/7/7586/1.html [GERMAN]
 http://dipbt.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/16/049/1604914.pdf [PDF GERMAN Page 16]
 https://www.bundesanzeiger.de/ebanzwww/wexsservlet?global_da... [GERMAN - Session protected - ZPÜ numbers under 4.1]
click on «Jahresabschluss zum Geschäftsjahr vom 01.01.2010 bis zum 31.12.2010» and solve the captcha, remember that the Bundesanzeiger is a by-law-open official publication in Germany, its a farce.
It will only amount to less than a handful of euros per year and generally it's more fair than the irrationally random levies (buying an external hard drive implies levy, buying an external harddrive case and a separate hard drive doesn't) but there are two problems.
First, the "tax" will undoubtedly increase every year. The copyright mafia has demonstrated their intention to adjust the levies accordingly to match an annual 10-15 million euros of income. So, now the "tax" might only be three euros. Later it will only be four euros, come on! Then only a fiver, come on, that doesn't hurt anyone! Then only ten euros, it won't make a difference... and so on.
Secondly, having paid the increasing fee (see first point) it's mostly undefined what you will get in return. By paying this fee—that is involuntarily taxed from your income—I think the common attitude will soon turn into "I've paid for it already, so I can at least decide to pirate some movies to get something back in return."
Neither the levies nor the annual fee aren't compensation for illegal copying, just private copying. It's just that the general public already perceives that private copying doesn't need to be compensated. For example, people don't generally take well the idea that after buying a cd they would need to pay again to make copy of it for their car player. Thus, a majority of people will inevitably attribute this forced copyright tax to an implied, unofficial license to pirate.
The legislation probably takes ten years to catch up with that. But I think it might be a good way. Personally, I would probably pay 20-30 euros annually to legally download content from PirateBay. The distribution of the collected money could be based on the popularity rank of Finnish artists and movies on PirateBay, instead of the arbitrary radio playing lists that they use currently.
The power of peer-to-peer would be worth paying for. The MAFIAA guys can handle the creation of the content, let the internet people handle the distribution. That way each party can do what they're good at.
it is not a piracy tax. Germans have a right to copy stuff for their close friends. that's not piracy but a lawful right. that the fee is outrageous is another issue.
In general, and in fact I sort of believe it is also that way in Germany, not a law that allow you to copy stuff to your close friends.
It allows you to make copies for yourself (backups, etc), and to view/listen to those copies or the original with your family. NOT giving or copying it to them.
Anyway, since you're letting your family view/listen, etc. they lose money on "fair use". Thus they made a tax so you pay for it.
And you know what? That's piracy tax with any name. So the site might be crap, I don't know. Germany may or may not have this tax, I don't know.
I know some countries do. France certainly do. And calling it piracy tax is insightful. Its there because of the so-called piracy. It's just a way to steal money really.
This was a direct translation of how the law worked before: I could not make a copy of an album for you, but you could borrow it from me, make a copy, and return the original to me.
you also use the much beloved "losing money" line.
fair use is a fantastic, culture promoting idea.
Yes that's one of the fundamental reasons for setting up the European Union. A Single Market.
Im happy that Im not in the EU (Switzerland) but I belive only getting the good stuff from the EU (open borders ...) will get harder and harder with the EU becomming more like a country.
Yes it has to do that to some regard but it can not be forced to and we still hold democratic control over the most importend of these things. Joining the EU would be spitting on the democratic system that Switzerland has built up over the last 200+ years.
Thinking that the waterhead burocarcy in brussel is serving the people at large with there interventions is idialistic at best. The EU is very undemocratic and has been put in place over peoples heads.
Anyone who can get their bony fingers so far deeply entrenched into the fleshy government/tax-/levy bureaucracy and demand "fruitful payoff" in the form of public taxation is probably working for the Mob, not the Artists, and not content Creators, in general.
Entertainment industry, ruled by the Mob? Big surprise.
I remember years ago there was a tax on cassette tapes, so every tape we made and of our own band we had to pay Michael Jackson and Madonna for the privilege. Completely absurd and infuriating.
In fact, since I already paid for it, I will want to use it for pirating, otherwise I paid this money for nothing.
In germany it is forbidden to break a copy protection, even if you have paid a fee for your storage media. Obviously it is a better deal to collect the taxes than to copy-protect music.
I'd be willing to pay even more than that if some of it went to public financing of cultural projects that have little commercial viability, such as art films, public space art, preservation of traditional music…
The reason I believe public funding is a superior option is that the process that decides what is worthy of being financed is democratic (as in one vote per person), while the libertarian argument of everyone does charity with their disposable income is plutocratic (as in one vote per dollar).
It is possible to prove mathematically that a free market doesn't work with goods that that have a significant cost to create but that are infinitely copyable, without restriction, at essentially zero cost once created.
The current copyright laws address this by restricting copying. The basic idea is to intellectual property artificially behave like physical property, so that the market can work.
There are a couple of disadvantages to this approach. (1) it makes IP goods more expensive to the consumer than they "should" be, so there will be underconsumption compared to what people would consume if the price was lower. (2) people can easily cheat.
The major advantage of this approach is that it leaves the decision of what works get made up to the market.
The other major way to address the market failure, which is the one Stallman suggests, is that you do artificially make IP act like physical problem, and so go ahead and let the market make and distribute copies without restriction, and address the problem of creation by public funding.
This is arguably fair since almost everyone does consume music, movies, and other forms of art. Essentially it is treated as a public good.
The advantage of that system is that consumers end up paying close to the marginal cost for their entertainment (i.e., $0), which is the economically "correct" price. Another advantage is that it does not rely on people obeying a legal fiction.
The disadvantage is that if art is being treated as a public good is that you (1) have to decide on the source of funding, (2) the funding level, and (3) how to distribute the money.
For source of funding, the most sensible seems to be some kind of tax specifically for this, probably tied to something that at least vaguely correlates with art consumption.
I have no idea how one would go about determining the funding level.
For distribution, something based on popularity seems sensible. Note that under this approach, all copying and sharing would be completely legal so there would be no need to try to hide it, so it would be feasible to figure out popularity by sampling network traffic. In fact, since it would be in the interest of content creators to ensure accurate measurement of popularity, I suspect that there would be big official free fast download services sponsored by the content creators, with good search and recommendation features, and most people would download through those rather than use P2P.
What is "lost profits" anyway? Is that like "jobs saved"?
I hope the RIAA isn't paying attention.
Personally, I'm thorn: if this would mean the MAFIAA boys drop their guns forever, I'd be almost happy to have it. Unfortunately, they'd never do that, they'd just keep gunning on top of collecting their racket money.
Your diatribes would be much more effective if they either had a bit more research behind them or did not succumb to poe's law. - saulrh
Good critique, thanks.
Sadly the basic facts of the article are correct.
There is a levy on different media and also on machines capable of copying content (yes, there is a levy on computers in Germany). The height of the levy is negotiated with the producers of the product, represented by Bitcom, and the respective "Verwertungsgesellschaft" which in this case is the ZPÜ.
The "Verwertungsgesellschaft" negotiating the levy for (paper) copying machines would be the VG-Wort.
Negotiations for USB-Sticks failed, so the ZPÜ made a unilateral move and simply set the new levy to said price.
Bitcom states in the original article (on heise.de), that one part of the underlying law has not been properly respected, namely §54a, Absatz 4 which stated that the levy has to have a sane relation to the price of the media.
They are expecting a lengthy lawsuit with the adverse effect that the producers of sticks have to set aside some money for the case of losing. In addition to that they expect the european market to become skewed since there is no such levy in switzerland and other neighbouring countries where consumers can easily order sticks.
Most of the people in Germany don't seem to be aware of the situation, simply not knowing that there is such a levy. Most of them also don't even know that they are allowed to make private copies (aka Privatkopie), and fall for the 'U r all pirates' propaganda of the content industry.
Friends are often astonished when they joke about pirating while we swap music and when I subsequently tell them, that what we are doing is absolutely legal.
Those tech savy of us who are aware about the situation are massively annoyed. Basically because THEY are taking our money as compensation for the Privatkopie while spreading propaganda that copying is illegal. WITH THE MONEY WE GAVE THEM.
Head of the ministry of justice, Mrs Leutheuser-Schnarrenberger, recently made a move and suggested a reform of the Urheberrecht and copyright in Germany (http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Justizministerin-fuer...)
While she is member of the dreaded neoliberal FDP, she is actually one of the very few politicians acting in favour of the developing information society. For example she is taking a stance against the EU data retention laws (Vorratsdatenspeicherung).
PS: whishing the term "Privatkopie" would become part of the english spoken world just like "Zeitgeist", "Gestalt" or "Kindergarten".
I really "like" (sarcasm) the levy on smartphones. This one is 36 Euros. Sad, but true. The problem with these "taxes" is, that the "Verwertungsgesellschaften" give the money to artists or labels but there the big fishes do profit most.
But the lobbying argument is, that all artists strife, because of these "taxes".
I'm quite interested in what happens in Germany with second hand computers. Many computers end up in recycling or landfill when they could be used for some further time. Do the small computer shops/people on ebay still have to pay a levy? Is the levy a percentage of the asking price or a flat fee like the original article points out is the case for media?
I'd ~translate~ ZPÜ as 'Central authority (Z) for private (P) rights to create copies (Ü)'. They are, for all I can tell, part of the 'GEMA' group, the German "We're responsible to collect money for artists whenever you run a radio/play music in a public place" guys.
These guys set a ~tax~ on anything you can use to create copies. Cd burner? Check. Hard drives? Check. Empty cds/dvds? Check. All of those, if bought here, are supposed to give a portion of their price to that organization. So I guess you can call it a tax on storage media if you want.
Let's say it's a .. disputable thing.
The rest of the German article is well-written, reasonable and .. well .. IT biased, of course. They discuss that all manufacturers and traders are a tiny bit unhappy with this situation, but do expect to fight for the next years to correct that idiocy. Until then, prices are expected to be adjusted in Germany: They claim that the prices for a 8 GB SD card currently costs 6-15 EUR and now needs to factor in this ~tax~ of 1.95 EUR for the time being -> Prices for consumers go up.
Edit: To save a click on my profile: I'm German, so that's my native language.
So I guess I'll be buying my storage in austria or france the next time. Maybe even amazon.co.uk works in this case...
* The fee used to be a flat 0.10 Euros, negotiated in 2008. Since then, the storage sizes have gone up dramatically, so an increase in price is certainly warranted.
* This is the move of the ZPÜ after negotiations failed. Their negotiating partner, the bitcom made an offer that basically called for keeping the old price. So the ZPÜ did what every negotiator will do: The put up a demand where they have room to lower the price.
So all in all, I'm annoyed that the price has gone up, but I'm not as outraged as many are. I don't buy tens or hundreds of USB-Sticks anyways, so the net result for me is negligible. It's the price we chose to pay when private copying was legalized and me for one, I'm happy to pay that price.
In the end, this is the wrong battle to fight, the copyright-issue will be decided on other fronts. We need a complete overhaul of the current system, so don't waste your breath here.
1. Allow copying for private purposes, introduce a flat fee on empty media (tapes back then, later cassettes, cd-roms, ...)
2. Ban all private copying, prosecute it at all costs. Ban tape drives, control all technology that can be used for private copying.
3. Copy as copy can, no one gets paid. Ignore that this may be an issue for people that depend on producing (music, films, ...)
The (IMHO wise) decision was to stick with option (1), so that's where we're at. The GEMA and ZPÜ, as much hate is directed at them and as much as is wrong with them, are tasked with collection that fee. It's their job and they do it, even if it's unpopular. It's a bit like the Finanzamt (IRS). You don't have to like them, but at least keep in mind that they're doing what they have to.
Now, one may argue that the current system is not suitable for the digital age where empty media is used for so much more than copying audio, or even that the whole GEMA system should be abandoned - and I'm actually on your side in that respect - but well, that's a different topic.
You could also appeal to the regulatory body and argue that the price is too high, and that's what the bitcom rightfully does, but then you'd have to settle on an acceptable price. So what's acceptable? I don't have an answer, do you? They'll eventually figure this out and the high prices demanded are part of their negotiation strategy.
First of all, a levy on storage media? That is so weird!
How the hell did that come about?
Your diatribes would be much more effective if they either had a bit more research behind them or did not succumb to poe's law.