Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What price a politician?

How much does a politician cost to maintain and feed?
The question pops up because of the amazing things that have happened to copyright as a concept in the last two decades. Copyright can be extended indefinitely, apparently. Every time Mickey M*se is about to slip into the public domain some handy senator pops up and suggests an increase of 25 years or so. The US Patent office rubberstamps everything that comes in, handing out patents on absolutely anything and letting the various parties fight it out in court instead of doing its job and finding out if a certain invention actually is an invention, and whether it is useful or just a pipe dream. Thus, we have insanities like patenting or copyrighting the sound of an engine, for instance. Amazing. All that bureucratic effort put to such splendid use.
In what way did these changes make sense to the lawmakers? Follow the money, who profited from these asinine changes?
In sweden we suddenly have a debate about copyright and its application. It is a year too late, but no-one was interested in the public opinion when the current (all but unenforceable) law was passed. Now it's election year, so now it's an issue.
What people have found out is that the record industry, which apparently is the only industry more corrupt than the heavyweight boxing establishment, has been dictating its own laws to our politicians for nigh on three decades. For some reason, they have made politicians sit still and write laws on their behalf, including such gems as the "cassette tax" that has since been expanded to cover all media that can be used to store music.
Let's examine that one for a second. A tax on anything that can store music (DVDR:s, CDR:s, cassettes, MP3 players and soon to come: hard drives) to compensate music corporations for their losses due to piracy. Except that no-one knows how many of these CDR:s or DVDR:s are actually used to copy music. What data is there to say that the music industry actually loses revenue? None that the general public has seen.
So what does it take for a private corporation to invent a tax on goods, to benefit itself? What kind of ball-twister grip do they have on the lawmakers? Is some old juror in the habit of wearing ladies underwear, or is it simply a case of buying enough vacation trips for the right people? Maybe a week in Belize or the virgin islands may ease the passing of a special tax? The music biz has been inflating record prices since the seventies and there has never been a crackdown on this behaviour. Even oil companies do not get away with this blatant rigging of prices.
What do we get for this tax? Is copying of music legal, now that I pay for it? No. So, what am I paying for and who gets the money? What do I get in return for my money? Insults in the form of "anti-piracy" ads on tv and in newspapers.
Now that the debate is actually on, all these well-conditioned politicians and a lot of what spies call useful idiots start all their arguments with the question: "but, how do we make sure everyone gets paid?". Shouldn't the question be "how can the record industry set up new payment systems that actually work in the modern media environment"? Why is it "our" problem to solve this very narrow special interests problems?
The latest suggestion from the ruling few is a "broadband tax" to compensate the media companies for the still unproven loss of revenue.
FINE. Let's do it, let's go. Put a blanket tax of $30 on every broadband account regardless of speed, and as a balance to that legalize all file sharing of all material for non-commercial purpouses. Make it legal to both up- and download anything. We pay a blanket fee, we get full access with no restrictions. The record industry is still free to sell its overpriced records like it always has, and we'll buy them like we always have (despite what they say), but we would finally be free of the goddamn whining from these greedier-than-thou suits.


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