Digital Rights Management or Taxes?

By Jon Newton 4/17/04

With the Big Five record labels still trying todecide how best to squeeze consumers into buying online product through one or other of the corporate download sites they both supply and back, the European Union is moving to "defuse a clash between some of the world's largest technology companies and national agencies over who should collect payments for digital royalties".

At stake is how companies such as Apple Computer and government-sanctioned royalty agencies should chase licensing payments for authors, musicians and artists without imposing substantial new fees on consumers who make legal copies of the artists' works, continues Jennifer L. Schenker's excellent International Herald Tribune here.

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Now Europe has to decide if it wants a DRM or a taxation model, "but consumers should not be hit with both," Jens-Henrik Jeppesen, manager of Intel's government affairs office in Brussels and chairman of the DRM and copyright task force of the European Information, Communications and Consumer Electronics Technology Industry Association, is quoted as saying.

Jo Cornu, a member of a DRM group recently formed by the European enterprise commissioner Erkki Liikanen, says there's definitely a clash between DRM and levies which will "get worse as DRM systems are more generally deployed," said Cornu, states the Tribune story.

What's more, as governments increase the levies, some groups fear consumers are being required to pay a kind of "piracy tax" to cover not only private copying but what the content companies are losing from piracy - something the levies were never intended to do, it says, going on that the European Commission plans adopting a policy week, it says would bring the national collection agencies into the 21st century.

"Among other thing," it says, "the policy paper will raise the possibility of pan-European licensing of music and other content downloaded from the Internet, allowing services like iTunes to be introduced quicker throughout Europe and examine the extent which DRM may eventually replace remuneration schemes such as levies.

But, "The collection agencies and IFPI, an international recording industry group, argue that it will be years before DRM is widespread enough to ensure copyrights are adequately protected and that in the meantime levies are playing a crucial role," says Schenker's report, quoting IFPI European legal counsel Olivia Regnier as saying, "Not everyone is paying twice - there are still plenty of cases where there is no payment and no levy."

Jon Newton is the editor of and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.

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Other MP3 stories:
Record Industry Wants iTunes to Charge More

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