Pay More For Music, or Pay More For the Player?

There is some disagreement in Europe at the moment on how artists will be paid for all that music you’ve downloaded to your iPod. There are two competing models: DRM-based and taxation.

Levies in EU countries bring in a lot of money – and only Britain, Ireland and Luxembourg don’t have the system. The International Herald Tribune estimates that Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands alone will see revenues from their private copying taxation rise from €309.39 million (US$) to an impressive €1.465 billion (US$) by 2006. You can understand why they’re so keen on it now.

There seems to be a clear ideological split in effect here – if you’re a software provider or a store owner, you prefer Digital Rights Management. If you’re a European collection agency, then taxation is the only way to go.

National royalties collection agencies in 12 European states are proposing a tax on digital music players – the Society of Music Creators in France has levied €20 (US$24) on every iPod sold in the country, as it is classed as a “copying device”… and Apple has refused to play it, preferring to go to court.

Apple prefer the other model of artist renumeration – DRM.

Enter the European Commission – who will be adopting a policy paper next week with the intention of bringing EU collection agencies into the 21st century. A mere 3.5 years late.

The policy paper suggests a pan-European licensing system for protected content and examines ways in which DRM may finally replace blanket taxes in the EU states. Apple and lobby groups representing some 10,000 companies across Europe are keen on the policy recommendations as it will allow them to get on with their business models whilst paying artists, yet avoid negotiating with 15 different collection agencies.

We much prefer a sensible implementation of DRM – artists are renumerated directly, it’s fairer on the consumer and promotes more innovation. Taxing “copying devices” demonstrates a lack of understanding of the entire field, is inaccurate and does not reward artists fairly. Also, making all consumers pay a piracy tax is in entirely unfair.

Whatever happens, it’s up to us to make sure we don’t end up paying the labels TWICE.

The International Herald Tribune

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?