Feeds

Music biz proposes 'iPod tax' in return for format-shift freedom

Pay for the CD, pay again to rip it

The essential guide to IT transformation

A UK music industry trade body has proposed a tax on MP3 players that would not only ensure musicians and labels are paid their dues, but also that consumers who pay their way effectively have to cough up twice.

The tax has been suggested by the Music Business Group (MBG), an umbrella body that lists as its members organisations like the BPI, the Association of Independent Music (AIM), and licensing and royalties overseer MCPS-PRS.

The MBG hasn't said how much extra it wants consumers to pay for new iPods, Walkmen, Sansas and the like, but it wants the levy to be decided by the music industry and device makers rather than government.

The organisation did say that is acknowledges that "consumers clearly want to format-shift", that “music fans clearly deserve legal clarity” and that it wants punters to have “the freedom to enjoy any music they have legitimately obtained”.

But only if they pay for it a second time round. The MBG's proposal is essentially a way to help the music industry get paid twice for the same thing: first for the CD and once again, by way of the iPod tax, for using the CD's content outside a CD player. It's the equivalent of asking consumers to buy two CDs, one for home, the other for the car.

The MBG said the levy "would be restricted to copying in the offline world", but by taxing the playback device, it ensures people who no longer buy CDs but acquire all their music from legal downloads services have to cough up twice too: first, when they download a track, and again when they buy a new device to download it to.

But why stop there? Since the copying is carried out on a computer, and the files might never be transferred to a music player, why not tax PCs too? If the MBG's argument is based solely on the extra value of music on the move, what about all those phones that can also have songs copied to them? How about car stereos?

As it stands, the MBG proposal brings no compensation to artists from folk who rip CDs but don't own an MP3 player.

Artists should be compensated for their work - few sensible folk would disagree with that - and the labels that facilitate ther distribution of that material should be entitled to a cut too. But their compensation comes from the sale of the CD or the iTunes download. Just because a certain technology makes it easier for people to listen to that content doesn't mean the content providers deserve a second bite of the pie.

What next? Paying a levy on shoes because bus companies lose out every time the weather's nice and we walk to work instead? Should we pay the plumber who installed our new loo every time we take a pee?

Of course, the logical solution is to charge more for CDs and downloads, but the music industry undoubtedly fears such a move would just encourage more consumers to grab songs from file-sharers.

The MBG voiced its rejection of a proposal made recently by the UK’s Minister of Intellectual Property, Lord Triesman, that Brits should have the right to copy freely legitimately acquired music from one device to any other, provided it's for purely personal use.

As it stands, that right is not granted under UK copyright law, which is why anyone's who's ever ripped one of their own CDs - especially if they subsequently gave away or sold the source disc - in Britain has broken the law.

His Lordship's point is surely that the law not only needs to be updated to take into account new technology, but also recognition that the law as it stands is entirely unenforceable. Triesman's proposal does nothing to aid music pirates and consumers who choose to source their music from illegal download channels. But it does bring the law up to date, and gives Brits the same 'fair use' right enjoyed by music consumers in the US, for example.

The kind of thing the MBG is proposing has been tried elsewhere. In January, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal rejected a decision by the country’s copyright board to empoe an iPod tax of the kind the MBG wants to introduce in the UK. If passed, Canadians may have to pay an additional CA$5 on digital audio players with less than 1GB of storage capacity and up to CA$75 for players with higher capacities.

James Sherwood contributed to this report

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
Apple's iWatch? They cannae do it ... they don't have the POWER
Analyst predicts fanbois will have to wait until next year
AMD unveils 'single purpose' graphics card for PC gamers and NO ONE else
Chip maker claims the Radeon R9 285 is 'best in its class'
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Apple to build WORLD'S BIGGEST iStore in Dubai
It's not the size of your shiny-shiny...
Just in case? Unverified 'supersize me' iPhone 6 pics in sneak leak peek
Is bigger necessarily better for the fruity firm's flagship phone?
Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer
Xerox? Pff, not even in the same league as His Jobsiness
Leak: Intel readies next round of NUC
Cheap boxen to get a refresh
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?