There's been fresh interest recently, in the light of the , in some form of taxation on Internet access in the UK. The idea is that copyright holders could be compensated for the losses they incur through copyright infringement by online file-sharers. The suggestion seems to be that we'd each pay something like £20 a year on top of our broadband subscription, to cover P2P downloads.
And, in-spite of myself, I actually can't help think it might be quite a good idea.
I don't think the movie and music industries will be as keen, however. This is because a tax on broadband will encourage people to download whatever they want, for free. But that's what appeals to me. The opportunity to download as much music and as many movies as I want, for just a small sum of money added to my broadband subscription.
I think I'd be prepared to pay a couple of quid a month extra to my ISP for that. And of course, being a tax, everyone who uses the Internet has to pay, even if they choose not to download movies or music. It's kind of like the TV licence, which makes no distinction between people who watch the BBC and those who don't.
You might argue that's unfair on certain groups of people. Perhaps you could make it free for the over-65s, because old people are less likely to be downloading copyrighted material anyway, aren't they? It would probably also not be applied to mobile broadband, which has such miserable usage limits and pathetic speeds that downloading much more than short clips is totally impractical.
Such ideas aren't new. For a long time now Canada has taxed blank CD and DVD sales, with money generated going to the entertainment industry. That's quite different to taxing everyone with Internet access, though.
The only real questions I have about the whole thing are how much will it cost and who will set the amount? But as I said, I think the entertainment industry would have a blue fit at such a proposal.