On downloading

A couple of years ago we proposed the idea of a general data download tax to fund an alternative compensation scheme. Under this tax people would pay a charge for each, say, gigabyte of data they would download. Though the concept itself is rather simple, it becomes complicated if one needs to take into account businesses, libraries and internet cafés.

Also the question whether an ACS in the form of a data download tax is actually needed. A recent study shows that illegal downloading is decreasing as a result of legal alternatives such as Netflix and Spotify. Their subscription model, a fixed periodic payment for (unlimited) access, could be applied to movies, e-books, music and so on.

Another issue is that a (suppressed) study by the European Commission found no evidence that piracy is harming the entertainment industry in any way. On the contrary the study found that “illegal” downloading could actually boost legal sales.

The fact is, as evidenced by a substantial second-hand market, that many people are willing to pay large sums of money to go concerts or festivals – popular ones are usually sold out in seconds. So we could easily imagine a future in which musicians will offer their music for free, as a kind of promotion and making money from the sale of concert tickets or performing on festivals.

Similarly movie producers could first show their movies in cinemas and earn back their expenses from the ticket sale, but that after a couple of months the movie will be available as free download. It is hard to believe that if a movie fails to become a blockbuster when in the cinemas, it will become a huge money-maker thereafter.

Given these alternatives we do not believe that a data download tax is necessary to pay the producers of creative contents. This does not mean we will give up on an ACS but it might be funded in a less complicated manner.