The Swedish Pirate Bay Raid Reeks To High Heaven

Just look at this list of civil rights violations performed in the raid on Pirate Bay's ISP a few days ago. Confiscating and searching through random servers who just happened to be in the same room? It also seems that the server hosting was among those confiscated - how convinient is that? (The site is up again, I see.) It seems that it's not the King that's leading the country, but US copyright organizations...

I understand there's a big commotion about this over the pond. Good thing, too.

This kind of bullying tactics is only going to cost the anti-piracy organizations lots and lots of good will, which they might have had before. You can't shut down pirates this way - Pirate Bay is up and running again, this time in the Netherlands.

Anything which can be digitalized loses its uniqueness. Whether we're talking about text, music, movies, or even whole web sites - anything can be copied, transported, cloned and distributed. It's like fighting the Hydra; when you remove one of its heads, two grow back. If it's important, it won't die.

I really see only two ways out of this situation:

  1. Turn the Internet into a closed system: anything that is put online must be reviewed first for copyright infringement. This is nearly impossible, for rather obvious reasons.
  2. Embrace and Extend: A media consumption tax on broadband, collected by Teosto and Gramex. 5€ on every broadband system/month. Make trackers legal and P2P networks legal, and ask the guys nicely to put in tracking code so that they get accurate info on whose songs and media gets downloaded, then distribute the 5€ accordingly.

I like #2 for quite a few reasons: Finland has 1.1 million broadband connections. Five euros on each would generate 66 Million € / year of copyright revenue, which is about double the amount of money that Teosto currently collects from public performances. This would mean an increase of about 200% to any musician's copyright-levy based income.

Of course, getting music for free off the internet would probably diminish CD sales. However, it's my understanding that they're not that significant income, unless you're really famous - making CDs costs money, and the artist gets about 4% of the retail price anyway, roughly 1€/sold CD. My totally back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that the increase in the income should more than compensate for the CD sales loss for most artists.

However, the people who would lose would be the record companies, who make most of their money from CD sales. So, it's very unlikely that #2 would ever be accomplished, even if it was better for the artists, simply because the people with the money do not want to see their profits fluster away to the artists. Bah.

Frankly, I would be happy to pay a 5€ "media consumption tax" on my broadband, if it gave me free access to any and all music in the world. I would not need to worry about backing up DRM'd files, because anything and everything could be trivially re-downloaded in the event of a catastrophe. New innovations on finding new music and rediscovering old would flourish. And perhaps we would be freed from the tyranny of the hits - being forced to listen to the same songs in the same radio stations all over again. Perhaps even it would be a true rebirth of radio on the internet?

What if you're not downloading music? Heck, you're paying for music already in the form of CD levies and MP3 players. Why not broadband?


Somebody might also say that you should not pay the Gramex tax for mp3-players or CDs either. The existence of a system (that Gramex has been granted a taxing power) does not make it right. In fact many people have argued that the taxing system is wrong and should be abolished.

Among the many, many big problems of the current system is that as a musician you have to be member of Gramex in order to get any revenue out of the audio system tax (CDs, etc). You also have to accept the rules that Gramex has decided and practically hand over the rights to all your music to Gramex. Monopolies are not good and even if we keep the current system where the producer has a monopoly on the work that he has created, we should get rid of unnecessary monopolies such as Gramex.

--Mikko Särelä, 05-Jun-2006

I happened to blog about the same thing before TBP accident. (in Finnish)

I just want to point out that if 20 percent of people in Europe would pay 10 euros in a month to get unrestricted access to music, it would generate revenue up to 90 million euros for every month for copyright holders.

--Jasmo, 05-Jun-2006

Mikko: I certainly see the point why people do not like it. I don't like it, either. However, I believe that the problem is that instead of being a money-collecting organization they have also assumed other duties, such as being the spokesperson on a lot of things. Now, if they would only collect money using RAND principles and would leave the policy issues to other organizations, I don't think anybody would mind their monopoly.

The situation is currently equivalent to the Tax Office deciding how much taxes are collected, how they are collected, and where they get to be used. The fact that someone has a monopoly on tax collection is not bad, mind you.

Jasmo: I corrected your entry; JSPWiki's automatic link detector seems to still have some issues... Anyway, the idea of a broadband tax is not new: in fact, in the UK, an ISP called PlayLouder is doing it already for their own customers.

--JanneJalkanen, 05-Jun-2006

I faced the dilemma Mikko's speaking of. I happened to sing in the background choir of a commercial record that was released last year, and Gramex sent me mail on how to join them and get my theoretical royalties. How can I get them without expressing implicit support for Gramex?

In Finland, there's no way.

--Markus, 05-Jun-2006

Actually, I've heard that there is a way to get your money out of Gramex/Teosto which does not involve joining them. However, the road is arduous and complicated, and probably not worth the effort for small money. If I only could find the reference...

The trouble, of course, being that if you ever once join Gramex/Teosto, you will simply loose all control of your own work - no matter the purpose it is made for.

--JanneJalkanen, 05-Jun-2006

A few things come to mind:

Making simplifications with numbers is dangerous. A 5€/month tax could amount to double what Teosto currently collects from public performances. BUT, that 5€ would have to cover a lot more than what is collected by Teosto (for composers, lyricists, arrangers, and their publishing companies). It would need to cover Gramex (for musicians) as well. And whatabout audiovisual works? Or the copyrights of writers? Then there is also the question of whether to think of broadband as performance or mechanical reproduction.

The definition of Artist is not that simple. Many artists are not composers and hence don't get royalties from Teosto. So stripping the sales income from record labels, is effectively stripping the income from artists who get paid royalties by the record labels.

Everyone is free to either join Teosto and Gramex or administer their own rights. In practice though, that is an impossible task. So either you cry or you cry with the money, your call.

For clarity I'd still like to emphasize that when joining Teosto and Gramex you do give them SOME administration rights to all of your music. Not ALL rights. There is a difference.

--Niko, 06-Jun-2006

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