Being taxed for other people's music habit

In a blog post by Lily Allan, she quotes a message she got from Matt Bellamy from MUSE who said “Someone who just checks email uses minimal bandwidth, but someone who downloads 1 gig per day uses way more, but at the moment they pay the same.  It is clear which user is hitting the creative industries and it is clear which user is not, so for this reason, usage should also be priced accordingly.”

He is basically suggesting that people pay a download tax to pay for the “creative industries” that are being hit by piracy.

In short, he wants me to pay for other people’s indiscretion in obtaining music, TV and movies via a mechanism that doesn’t compensate the artist that created these.

I am totally against this because I do not partake in such activity. My daily downloads do actually average about a gigabyte per day, but this is made up of things like using the BBC iPlayer, Spotify, downloads via my MSDN Subscription and so on. All of these result in large downloads. All of these provide me with legal content.

On top of that I buy many DVDs, CDs and buy a fair amount of music via the iTunes app on my iPhone. In fact, I often end up with a number of copies of the same thing, paying multiple times effectively, so I can have the music in a format that I want.

Am I hitting the creative industries? Good grief no! If anything they should be compensating me for having paid for their works multiple times over.

But, Matt Bellamy may be suggesting a get out clause so I don’t have to pay, yet again, for legal content: “ISPs should have to pay in the same way with a collection agency like PRS doing the monitoring and calculations based on encoded (but freely downloaded) data.”

If he is suggesting what I think he’s suggesting I really don’t think he’s thought it through all that well.

First there is the civil liberty issue of having the ISP monitor your communications. Sure, it would be relatively easy for them to examine the data that’s being passed through. In fact, to some extent they have to do that anyway because they have to examine the TCP/IP headers in order to route traffic. However, music and movie downloads are significantly larger. Roughly 7 to 9 orders of magnitude bigger.

Also, while a TCP/IP header is very well defined, digitally encoded creative works can be encoded in many different ways. MP3, MPEG, WMA, WMV, etc. How do you tell what it is you have? How would you create a system that would work out that a particular MP3 is a Lily Allen track? If you had the CD you could rip it in many different ways resulting in many different representations, some smaller lower quality, some larger higher quality. How do you correctly identify all that?

Personally, that idea it is a non-starter at current technological levels. Secondly, we’re heading towards a general election soon and most political parties that are vying for power at the moment are campaigning on a stance of improving civil liberties and reducing surveillance on the populace – They are unlikely to be legislating to allow ISPs to spy on network traffic like this for what is essentially a civil matter.

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1 Comment

  1. Andy Gibson says:

    Also, the ISP’s have already strongly objected to policing the internet so even if we had the level of technology, someone else would need to oversee it.Also what about legal music? An new BitTorrent tracker launched this month promoting the distribution of open-source music, how can you tell the legal tracks from the illegal ones?All talk like this is going to do is damage the music careers of the artists, already people are turning sour towards Lilly Allen’s music. Instead of whinging people are breaking the system, put the effort from campaigns like this towards finding a better system where people are no inclined to pay. Personally I think things like Spotify are making a good step forward, especially where you need to have a premium account to use it on your mobile because people will pay for that.That’s my 2 cents

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