The Spanish music industry received a belated $46 million Christmas present on Thursday when Parliament approved a new digital tax in its last full session before the general elections on March 9.
The so-called “digital canon” will apply to MP3 and MP4 players, mobile phones with MP3 recording capacity, and USB memory cards, and is expected to come into effect Jan. 15.
It will apply a small charge to digital gadgets capable of recording music, film, photocopies, or any other form of intellectual property.
The Spanish government estimates that of the €100-115 million ($144-166 million) of “canon” that will be collected per year, some €32 million ($46 million) will go to the music industry. The figure is 100% greater than the current music industry “canon” charged on blank CDs, DVDs, CD and DVD recorders, printers and Xerox machines.
Labels’ body Promusicae president Antonio Guisasola says, “this is a victory for the music industry, it is justice in the making. The [intellectual property] law forces us to live with private copying [of music by consumers], but without being compensated for loss of income [through non-purchase of music]. Now this will change.”
Spain’s intellectual property law allows the copying of music for personal non-profit use, and charges a flat-sum on blank sound carriers to compensate for the fact that a person who makes a private copy of a CD, for example, will not buy that CD. Until now, digital gadgets that can make the copies were not covered by a “digital canon.”
The “canon” is not in fact a tax as the Administration does not charge it. It is legally considered to be a compensation for authors and artists for loss of income caused by non-purchase physical or digital purchase of their music or other intellectual property.
The new charges are €3.15 ($4.5) for an MP3 or MP4 recorder-player; €12 ($17.3) for an external hard disc (excluding computer hard discs); €1.5 ($2.2) for a mobile phone with recording facilities, and €0.30 ($0.43) for USB flash sticks.
The money will be administered by the Spanish authors’ and publishers’ society (SGAE), a fact that enrages the Spanish Internet users’ association and digital gadget manufacturers’ groups, who did not immediately comment on the Parliamentary vote.
The “digital canon” issue reached Parliament 18 months behind schedule. The revised intellectual property law of April 2006 gave the manufacturing industry and rights collecting societies — led by SGAE — a few weeks to agree a list of gadgets and tariffs. Agreement proved impossible. And then the two government ministries responsible for the “digital canon” — the industry and culture ministries — squabbled over details.
The final list of gadgets and tariffs was not released by the ministries until Dec. 18, two days before the vote, and the success or otherwise of the vote was unclear until the last minute as the main right-wing opposition Popular Party announced a few days earlier that it had reversed its traditional support for the “canon.”
The about-turn was seen as an electoral move by most observers. In the end, four parties — Popular Party, Catalan Eco-Socialists, Catalan Republican Left, and Canary Island Coalition — voted against the “canon,” with the ruling PSOE socialists and other parties voting in favor.
Most current private copy compensation charges were actually reduced in the new measure. Charges from Jan. 15 will include: €0.17 ($0.24) for blank CDs, down from €0.22 ($0.32); €0.22 for recordable CDs, the same as before; €0.44 ($0.63) for blank DVDs, down from €0.60 ($0.86); €0.60 for recordable DVDs, same as before; €0.60 for CD recorders, same as before; and €3.40 ($4.90) for CD-DVD recorders.