The Return Of The Private Copy Levy


Remember when I wrote about a proposed storage levy not once, but twice two years ago?

It turns out that it’s back and was approved at Cabinet level yesterday, without public consultation – sneakily, banana-republic style, taking advantage of the fact that pretty much everyone is on holiday and that the general public (which is generally oblivious to these matters) will likely lose track of things among all the drama and silliness being regurgitated by the news media during Summer season.

A brilliant strategy on the lobbyists’ part, for sure. Shame that the bill is still largely the same, and still taxing anything able to store media regardless of intended purpose, with a little upgrade to explicitly include smartphones and tablets.

There’s a way to go yet (it has to be approved in Parliament), but even with the usual dissenting noises from various political factions I’m guessing it’s going to be passed – the lobbyists have clearly learned their lesson, and the politicians involved are so blissfully unaware of how technology works (or how we consume media these days) that they dismiss public comment as being “confused” by the bill’s “complexity”.

Well, it’s not that complex, really (the bill was leaked online prior to approval, and the legalese is pretty straightforward). It’s just completely, utterly divorced from reality, and is fundamentally unfair in the way it taxes all storage devices – with a tiny, clueless proviso that exempts things like “medical uses” thrown in merely for show, which I expect to be floated during future discussions in order to be able to claim allowance for other uses.

It still reeks of technological ignorance, and is a great example of why Portugal still has to catch up to modern times in terms of policymaking.

In an age where cloud services are the new norm for storage and content is legally available in streamable or downloadable formats, taxing all forms of personal storage for the sake of financing a private lobby (in the name of culture, of course!) is not just unfair – since it’s effectively a form of double taxation for those of us who actually pay external providers for the content we consume – but is also, effectively, tilting at windmills.

In short, for the locals who don’t get the allegory, our politicians are being so transparently manipulated and are so incompetent at grasping present day reality that it makes us look bad.

And for the non-locals… if you’re planning to invest in Portugal, this kind of lawmaking is why the country is commonly flagged as having an unstable fiscal policy – between this and other lobby-driven rulings, you never know what might railroad your business a couple of years down the line.