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While around the globe copyright critics advocate the adoption of Creative Commons licenses as a way for enabling remix and non-commercial file-sharing, in Europe a second solution is debated more and more intensively: a so-called “culture flat rate”. Internet users should be mandated to pay a fixed amount per month and in return be allowed to non-commercially remix and share copyrighted files. Of course, differently to the private regulation approach of Creative Commons, such a “culture tax” would require legislative changes.

Technically, most countries already have a minor form of such a culture tax called private copying levies: a special tax or levy is charged on purchases of recordable media – in some cases also on recording or copying devices – and then redistributed to rights holders via copyright collectives. Regularly copying levies are justified as being a compensation for limitations and exceptions to copyright such as the right to make a private copy (see, for example, the US Audio Home Recording Act).

Compared to other aspects of copyright regulation, which are increasingly harmonized across jurisdictions in the course of international treaties such as the WTO’s TRIPS agreement, copying levies still vary significantly from country to country – both in terms of the types of devices and recordable media covered and in terms of levy levels. And these differences are far from being diminished, as recent developments in the neighbouring countries Germany and Austria illustrate: while in Germany the Association of Computer Manufacturers and a consortium of different collecting societies agreed on a new copying levy on any computer with a recording device (German press release), the Austrian supreme court of justice ruled against a similar levy (Austrian supreme court ruling, German).

In his contribution (PDF) to last year’s Free Culture Research Workshop at Harvard’s Berkman Center, the German media sociologist and activist Volker Grassmuck, argues in favor of a “Culture Flat-Rate to end copyright extremism and bring information freedom and remuneration for authors to the Internet.” He describes the model as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
January 2010
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All texts on governance across borders are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.