In Europe, there is a proposal to tax Google, Yahoo, Apple, and others on the content they provide that passes over European Telecommunications networks. The Europeans complain that their networks are over-burdened with content that comes from the USA that they deliver to their subscribers and they want a cut of the action. They claim that the cost of upgrading their bandwidth, especially in France, Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe, to keep up with content is so overwhelming that the content providers themselves should pay for the inconvenience. France calls it the "Google Tax." I call it extortion and fraud. Its bad policy for Europe and its bad policy for the Internet. In France, even though French Telecom has been deregulated, Alcatel-Lucent estimates that it will cost over 300 billion euros to upgrade the French broadband infrastructure to enable high-speed internet access for every French citizen. Other European Telecoms, also former monopolies, agree. Someone has to pay for this, why not the Americans?
Its their doing anyway, this Internet...
In France, where the "Google Tax" has already passed it already hurts French content providers more than Google because their content is taxed too and they only serve the local French market. Google, meanwhile, has a global market and only a small fraction of their revenues are effected in France. You have to love the irony...
By now, American readers are no doubt feeling quite superior since we haven't done anything as legislatively dumb yet. Don't.
Legislative stupidity is not the monopolistic right of Europe. In the United States we have the Protect IP Bill introduced by Senators Patric Leahy and Orin Hatch. This Bill allows the US Attorney General to shut down websites that are alleged to provide copyrighted materials or counterfeit goods. Apparently, current copyright laws which require copyright holders to demonstrate infringement in a court of law are insufficient to protect IP rights in the United States. What the Protect IP Bill does is remove the inconvenience of due process and allow the US government or any IP holder to demand an injunction or restraining order from a court to shutdown a website without a court case. This Bill is bad on so many grounds. The definitions of copyright infringement and counterfeiting are very loose. The lack of due process means any aggrieved party can use injunctions to shut down competition or ideas it wants repressed. And one person's piracy is another's business model.
Many organizations are using piracy for viral marketing. Lets face it, with 2 billion people on-line today, people are producing a
lot of content. Anyone can write a book, produce a video, record a
song, post a blog and almost everyone does. With all that content,
getting noticed is very hard. And that's changing the business models
of content production. Those changes are organic to the development of
Information and Society.
The Protect IP Bill, if passed, would make it possible for political interests to allege copyright infringement on their ideas and shutdown opposing party websites. It would empower ugly forms of censorship more at home in countries we'd rather rid of censorship than show new examples. It is a huge step backwards and is as pernicious and wrong-headed as the "Google Tax."
Government should keep its uninformed fingers the Heck out of that development. On both sides of the Atlantic, taxing and shutting down content should be seen as dictatorial remedies that will do far more harm than good.
We the Internet Generation want the Freedom of Information to connect the 5 billion people not yet online with information unfettered and uncontrolled to illuminate the world. The legislative examples above represent darkness and we should all reject and fight against them.