Russian copyright right holders float internet tax plan

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

December 8, 2014

The Russian Union of Right Holders (CPR) has proposed (Google Translate) an alternative approach to the increasingly belligerent and punitive model of dealing with copyright piracy that has dominated the debate so far.

The idea is simple – charge all internet users a flat that can be used to compensate rights holders.

You get the right to freely and lawfully used for private purposes – including to receive, distribute, share, share – absolutely any content that is not excluded from the system of global licensing.

The proposed license for a single for a single connection to the internet is 25 rubles (approx. $5 USD) per month, which it is claimed would raise $850 USD per year.

In many ways we love the idea of not prosecuting individual downloaders, while also finding a mechanism that ensures content creators get paid. However, there are big problems that need to be addressed before the plan becomes viable (if they can indeed be overcome at all):

  • By effectively being a blanket tax on all internet users, the plan means that people who do not download at all would be paying for the habits of those who do
  • As users would be charged for each internet connection they subscribe to (e.g. home broadband and cellphone mobile data connection), many would pay the ‘tax’ multiple times
  • The liscence would not extend to sharing files, which as the main channel for downloading unlicensed content is using BitTorrent (a technology that requires files be shared), is very problematic
  • No system currently exists to ensure that royalties are distributed fairly to content holders

Despite these problems, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov has expressed broad support (Google Translate) for the idea, while at the same time insisted that the government ‘won’t be rushed’ into a decision,

We are ready to discuss any proposal that protects the copyright owner.