A strong coalition of two Dutch artists unions and the local consumer watchdog have submitted a proposal to permanently legalize file-sharing of music and movies. In exchange, the parties call for a levy on MP3-players and other devices that can play and record movies and music. In the future, this has to be changed to a general levy on Internet subscriptions.
For years, downloading movies and music for personal use has been allowed under Dutch law, but the current Government has plans to change this.
This is a bad idea, according to the consumer watchdog artists unions. Instead, they have issued a counterproposal that would eventually legalize both the uploading and downloading of movies and music entirely.
“The parties find it essential to protect the freedom of consumers on the Internet and to ensure that the rights of artists are respected. A necessary condition for the adoption of the proposal is that the technologies used will not infringe on the rights of consumers,” the press statement reads.
Legalizing ‘illicit’ file-sharing would happen in two stages. The existing levy on blank media such as CDs and DVDs will be replaced by a levy on devices that can play an record movies and music. This includes, but is not limited to mobile phones, MP3-players and TVs.
The average levy would be around 5 euros per device, and the money collected should be fairly divided among artists and other rightsholders. The proposal does not apply to other digital files such as games, software and books.
In the future, when file-sharing is even more dominant than it is now, this levy should be changed into a general Internet levy which will completely legalize the uploading and downloading of movies and music for personal use. Commercial copyright infringement will remain illegal according to the proposal.
The proposal is an interesting one, especially coming from the artists themselves, but it also raises many questions. The proposal is quite vague about how the collected money should be divided. Also, it avoids the important issue that people who are not downloading at all will end up paying more for their mobile phones and TVs.
The proposal will undoubtedly meet some resistance from music retailers such as Apple, who will lose millions in revenue if it was adopted. That said, it’s good to see that the unions and the consumer watchdog are at least thinking about alternative solutions.