Belgian RIAA Demands An Internet Tax To Pay For Losses Due To Piracy

IT Management

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Content owners say piracy is the number one problem facing content owners. These groups have tried almost everything to stop piracy, but none of it has really worked. Now content owners have a new tactic to regain revenue lost due to piracy - an Internet tax.

Ars Technica reports that Sabam, the Belgian equivalent of the RIAA, have taken Belgium's ISPs to court demanding they pay 3.4 percent of what they get from customers to content owners. In other words, Sabam is suggesting that ISPs pay an Internet tax to make up for what it perceives as lost revenue due to piracy.

Apparently, Sabam has been trying to get reach an agreement with ISPs over such a "tax" since 2011. It only brought the matter to the courts when the deal fell through. ISPs are saying an Internet tax to be paid to content owners "lacks any legal basis," but content owners obviously don't think that way.

Now, this situation brings up a really intriguing concept. Would you be willing to pay a few extra dollars per month on your Internet bill to continue pirating content? Even if you didn't pirate content yourself, you would still be paying for those who did. Would that be fair to all the people who buy their content from legitimate sources? Such a tax would remove the need for efforts like the Copyright Alert System and other three/six strikes systems that punish Internet users for downloading pirated content.

Of course, the flip side to such a "tax" is that it would embolden content owners and other industries to demand similar fees from ISPs. ISPs would then pass off the extra cost to the consumer resulting in even more expensive monthly subscription fees.

Still, it's an interesting proposal - is there a way to only charge those who pirate to satisfy content owners without threatening the sanctity of the Internet? Some have suggested that torrent trackers go private, start charging a monthly fee to downloaders, and pay those fees directly to content owners. It sounds good on paper, but content owners probably wouldn't go for it. They're already neurotic about people promoting content on BitTorrent so I highly doubt they would be fine with supporting "paid piracy."