Who wants a music tax?

This blanket is no comfort


In Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, set in WW2 London, a character called Slothrop begins to realize that everywhere he has sex, a V2 rocket subsequently lands on the same spot, obliterating the area. If you dig a little, you may notice something spookily similar with the idea of a Music Tax in the media.

Back in March, talk of a Music Tax suddenly exploded at the SxSW music conference in Austin. WiReD's blog ran a story by Frank Rose, entitled Music Industry Proposes a Piracy Surcharge on ISPs.

"[The] idea is to collect a fee from internet service providers - something like $5 per user per month - and put it into a pool that would be used to compensate songwriters, performers, publishers and music labels." Apparently this was the brainwave of Jim Griffin, a collective licensing advocate hired by Warners to think the unthinkable. Here's an interview with him from 2004, where he dismisses the idea that collective license should be compulsory, should penalise non-participants, or be imposed by the government. "Government has an after the fact role, as it does with Antitrust legislation. The arguments should be voluntary," he said then, and sources indicated he hadn't changed his mind.

A pool, yes, but not a tax.

Coincidentally, the International Music Managers' Forum happened to be meeting in Austin, and its former head (and now Emeritus President) Peter Jenner was quoted in the article.

Last week, another screaming came across the sky, and another Tax Bomb fell to earth, this time in London.

"Should the music industry tax you to use the Web?" asked CNET. "Leave it to our friends across the pond to come up with a creative, tax-heavy way of punishing music downloaders," wrote Brian Heater at PC Magazine, who continued - "Culture Secretary Andy Burnham is proposing yearly fees of £20 to £30, which would be imposed by ISPs."

Both drew on an article in the Independent. While the rest of the British media gorged on the Memorandum of Understanding between major ISPs and the music business, and the Business Department's proposals on file sharing, the Indie alone had an unusual bit of news everyone else had missed.

"Music industry to tax downloaders (£30 'licence fee' set to revolutionise illegal file-sharing)", the paper's Nigel Morris reported.

"Peter Jenner, a veteran music industry figure who now manages the singer Billy Bragg, who has championed the plan for an annual charge, said last night that the idea was attracting growing support," claimed Morris. "He said the cash raised by including the top-up in the fees paid to ISPs could match the current £1.2bn turnover of the British record industry. Mr Jenner said: 'If you get enough people paying a small enough amount of money you can turn around the wheels of the music industry.' "

So was Jenner our man? It looked like every time Peter talked to the media, a story about a Music Tax exploded a few days later. But it only seemed fair to ask the lad himself.

Bombshell

Jenner denied planting the story - the Indie had called him, he told us, not the other way around.

And so where did the reporter get the idea that the Music Tax would be £30 a year?

"That came from my calculations that if everybody paid £2 a month, then you get the size of the record business today."

Right. So it's a tax, then?

"It's a tax in the same sense that when you get on a bus, you pay a fare. If you don't, then tough shit, you get thrown off the bus."

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021