Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dutch parliamentary hearings into copyright (5)

The prospect of parliamentary hearings into copyright caused already some excitement. But, according to Henk Willem Smits in the Dutch Financial Daily, now the department of Justice is also working on an arbitration board for copyright, an institute which should obligatory be followed in conflicts about tariffs. The Institute for Information Law has developed the proposal for an arbitration board. It is now on the desk of the state secretary of Justice and will eventually be sent to the parliament. It is expected that once such an arbitration board is in place, its decisions will be followed; at least this is what the secretaries of state of Justice, Economic Affairs and Culture expect, according to a letter to the parliament.

The collecting societies for musicians, actors, movie producers, authors, performing artists and other artists have become more aggressive towards entrepreneurs and consumers. These societies have collected 232 million euro last year, about 30 million more than the year before. But not only the revenues increased, also complaints have poured in. Recently the state secretary received 11.000 signatures of complaining entrepreneurs.

The question is whether such an arbitration board will work. Presently the fixing of the tariffs is not transparent; besides the rules are complex and the number of collecting societies is numerous. So an arbitration board could bring transparency. Yet a representative of BUMA/STEMRA, the collecting society for music, is not convinced as music is complex. Besides arbitration board can delay a decision just as much as a court case can.

Especially the tariffs are a problem. Recently in a presentation (in Dutch) one of the investors in Fabchannel, Foreman Capital, illustrated that the tariffs in the Netherlands are extremely high for streaming audio and video. He took the example of three persons who want to listen to the new album of Keane. All persons listen to the album 10 times in the first month, 10 times in the second month 2 and 8 times in the third month.
- Person 1 downloads the new album online (10 tracks) and pays in total 0,90 euro.
- Person 2 does not want to listen to studio version, but selects the special acoustic release performance in paradise and listen and watches those 10 tracks on Fabchannel. Person 2 pays over three months 10,50 euro.
- Person 3 has a subscription with a streaming service and listen to the album on that service. He pays over three months 3,00 euro.
The conclusion is that streaming audio and video services like Fabchannel are not in line with the download service and the audio streaming service. The difference is even more extreme, when the tariffs are compared with tariffs in Belgium, UK, USA. After three months a user of the video and audio streaming service Fabchannel pays 0,84 euro in Belgium, 0,70 euro in the UK, 0,16 euro in the USA and no less than 10,50 euro in the Netherlands.

It is clear that an arbitration board can start immediately as there will be no lack of cases.

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