A bit more on the Portuguese Private Copy Levy

Following up on my earlier post, and despite a number of other things I would much rather be writing about, it bears mentioning that the local Authors’ Guild has done a number of interesting things lately, in rough chronological order:

  1. Published a FAQ that conveniently sidetracked all of the issues associated with private content (or even their proposed per-GB tax) - by, of course, not mentioning the levy rates included in the bill.

  2. Attempted to muddle the issues by mentioning the word “piracy” at every possible opportunity, befuddling even senior justice officials who were misleadingly prompted to comment on the bill.

  3. Removed the 2010 annual report I (and many other people) linked to, in utter ignorance of such obvious things as the Google cache, thanks to which there is now a permanent, independent record of it1.

  4. Posted a listing of 100 authors who “supported” the bill (around a fifth of which are members of, hold office at the Guild, or are directly related to same by family ties).

This last bit was the most telling, for it soon became apparent that some of the people on that list had actually never signed anything in support of the bill, or had been reached by phone asking for permission for adding their name to an “anti-piracy” document.

Interestingly enough, the page now mentions that the petition is “open”, but at least one of the authors who openly stated that he did not support the bill is still listed.

Even as the controversy rages on in Facebook, I cannot but help mulling how incredibly, unbelievingly, stutteringly badly they botched this up - at least similar discussions around ACTA and SOPA in other countries have the (rather dubious, I know) advantage of being orchestrated by professional lobbyists instead of clueless rank amateurs that would, at the very least, be clever enough not to be news on BoingBoing.

But it bears mentioning that there are still some chilling aspects to the whole thing - for instance, I am flabbergasted at how mis-informed journalists, senior judges and (most of all) artists seem to be regarding the bill, even though there is a growing number of savvy ones publicly denouncing it.

And I have to wonder how anyone holding political office can support it given the nearly criminal amount of deceit and disinformation currently surrounding it - politics being what it is, I don’t suspect many will keep supporting it as further knavery comes to light.

Sadly, the media have so far mostly ignored the issue.

Which is to be expected, I suppose, since once it was tainted as a “piracy” bill nobody cared to dig further into the matter, and most journalists probably aren’t savvy enough to worry about the way the levy affects just about any kind of digital storage - or to run the numbers and notice that the Author’s Guild is effectively trying to raking in an order of magnitude more cash by taxing every single storage device in the country, regardless of what it is actually used for.

My favorite bit? Some luminary actually stated on the record, during the obscure little public hearing they held for trade associations (because, after all, there is no way the general public can be allowed to comment on this kind of thing…) that people using large volumes of storage for personal media were “a statistical anomaly”, in an age where the staple storage product is the 2TB hard disk.

I can’t wait for the records of that hearing to be published - I’m positive I’ll be perusing them with great relish.

But I would hazard a guess that whomever stated that is not a creative person - forget about computer science, software development, etc., I mean authoring your own content, something just about everybody with a camera does - and, increasingly, we do it on video.

Which would be ironic for anyone affiliated with the Authors’ Guild, but oddly fitting given their overall approach to, well, authorship.

  1. There are quite a few more copies, so it’s going to be fun if they ever try to get it removed. ↩︎