Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Levy upon levy: after the MP3 now the USB

Every half year the Dutch consumers are threatened with a new tax on technical gadgets by a body which is not a tax body. Last time it was a tax on MP3 players; and not just a tax but more a heavy fine. This time it is a fifteen eurocents tax on USB sticks. When will all this nonsense end?

A copy levy has to be paid on blank cassette tapes, floppy discs and CD-Rs and DVD-RWs. The money collected is used to compensate artists for their work. This levy is not only for business, but also for consumers and is called home copy levy. These levies are collected by a body, appointed by the ministry of Justice.

The latest gadget to be put a levy on is a USB stick or an SD cards. The collecting body reasons that people put music on it; so there should be a levy. The consumer association has called the claim for a levy bizarre as the sticks and cards are used for private items such as photographs or presentations and increasingly in cars, mobile telephones, digital cameras, household equipment and electronic, photographic frames.

Presently the levy would be a moderate fifteen euro cent. Bust the consumer association foresees that the collecting bodies will raise the levy and bring it in line with the storage capacity. Given that a 1Gb already is normal, the levy could be increased to unacceptable levels.
This is not the first time the collecting society has proposed a levy. The last time it was for the MP3 player. The protest was loud from consumers and politicians. They claimed that people who buy music would pay twice: once for downloading and once for using the MP3. And the protest was heard. The Dutch minister of Justice ordered the collecting body to charge zero euro cents for the levy till January 1, 2008. This sounds impressive, but the threat is still there that the levy might be raised from zero euro cents to some euro. The protest of the parliament was negated so far.

Politicians, who have supported this levy idea since the last change in the copyright, see now that they have given a blank license to collecting societies, which do know what other collecting bodies are doing. So the home copying levy is collected by one body. A company copy levy is collected by another collecting society. A radio licence in a company is collected by yet another body, while again another body comes to collect money for the airing of music or showing television shows in a bar. There is an unlimited packaging of levies.

But within a day the new minister of Justice reacted and said that he would not accept a levy on USB sticks and memory cards.

Blog Posting Number: 691

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