On Levying ISPs for DRM-Free Content

February 18, 2007

It should not be a surprise by now to see lawyers and politicians arguing bizarre things about the Internet. First, it was the infamous Senator Ted Stevens and his “series of tubes”, and now it is the Spanish Authors Association (SGAE) proposing to charge the ISPs and operators for illegal P2P downloads. Sort of a road-tax, but on the ISPs.

The challenge with SGAE’s proposal is that it is highly short-eyed and not understanding of the nature of the internet. It sadly follows the current trend across Europe, which makes our politicians think that they can fix any problem by imposing additional regulation.

If European ISPs were charged such levies on P2P downloads, it would be naïve to think that they would stand still looking at their decreased margins. First, the ISPs would certainly pass the cost onto the end consumer by increasing monthly broadband fees, with the terrible and unfair side-effect of making lawful citizens pay for committing no sin.

Secondly, every single ISP would start charging content providers for the usage of their networks. The media groups would not only need to pay their normal hosting and data centre fees as they currently do, but they would also have to pay every single other ISP in the country for the bandwidth used to connect end consumers to content.

The interesting thing is that those big media groups are the likes of Universal/Vivendi, Sony Music, EMI, which all co-share production costs with the news groups of CBS, CNN, Canal+ and Prisa. So at the end of the day, SGAE would end shooting itself on the foot.

In summary, the suggestion made by Pablo Hernández of SGAE is ill-conceived and hopefully will not see the light.

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