There are times when I read the news in the morning and I can't help but wonder what some people are thinking when they announce something new. Usually, that amazement revolves around weird products or dumb deals. But today, it's something entirely different: a tax on Internet use.
According to The Independent, Internet users could face an annual tax of 30 British pounds (about $60) to download music over the Web in an attempt by the music industry to use Internet service providers to stop illegal downloading.
"U.K. Culture Secretary Andy Burnham is supporting calls from sections of the music industry for a yearly levy of 20 pounds ($40) to 30 pounds ($60) to be imposed by ISPs on customers who want to share music," The Independent reports.
Obviously blind to the implications of this arrangement, the music industry believes it could actually help a larger portion of the public, who would have otherwise been criminalized at the hands of illegal downloading. Not to mention, it could recoup the industry's estimated $2.4 billion in annual losses at the hands of illegal downloading.
"If you get enough people paying a small enough amount of money you can turn around the wheels of the music industry," music industry veteran Peter Jenner told the publication.
"Both ISPs and the music industry need to take responsibility for this issue. But we need action as the industry is suffering," another industry insider told The Independent.
Yikes. Is this really where the music industry is going next? Sure, it's just in the U.K. right now and there's no indication that it'll go elsewhere, but don't you think that if it works there, it'll come here?
Once again, the low-hanging fruit is the victim.
In its infinite wisdom, the music industry has once again conjured up a plan to ensure that you become the victim regardless of whether you're illegally downloading music. The way I see it, this isn't a tax designed to stop piracy, it's a tax to use the Internet, and to me, that's totally unacceptable.
Try as it might, the music industry won't simply solve its problems by trying to tax us into oblivion. Instead, it needs to denounce its foolhardy plans of attacking college students and individuals and start addressing the biggest concern: piracy cartels overseas that make up the lion's share of those billions in losses.
A levy on all users of $60? Are you kidding me? You mean to tell me that from now on (if this bill were to pass), you would be forced to pay your ISP $5 per month to address the so-called "rampant" file-sharing issue on the Web? What if you've never illegally downloaded a song in your life? What if you don't even know where to find illegal songs? You should be penalized because someone else does and the music industry has no idea how to stop them?
Sorry, but that's not right.
Once again, the music industry has shown its true colors. It doesn't really care about going after the pirates, it only cares about recouping its investment by any means necessary.
And perhaps that's where I have the biggest issue with this. It's not that the music industry is actively seeking ways to stop pirates--I expect that--but that the music industry is showing here that it really doesn't care if you're illegally downloading music as long as it doesn't impact the bottom line.
Doesn't that seem a bit ironic considering the RIAA and the rest of these wacky organizations always try to claim that "it's just not right to steal?" They don't care if you steal, they just don't want you to steal if it costs them money.
An annual levy on Internet use is both foolhardy and representative of the sad state of affairs in the music industry. Instead of embracing the Web and trying to find ways to exploit it, the music industry continues to show its desperation and try to find ways to make you lose out. In the process, the innocent are being victimized for something someone else did.
Hopefully the music industry's annual tax idea will die a quick death. But if it doesn't and it becomes a "success" in the eyes of the labels, look for it to spread across Europe and the United States until we're all being charged cash for something we don't do.
Does that seem fair to you?