Swedish Copyright Collective – Technology Is Killing the Blank Disc Star

When was the last time you burned a CD or a DVD? If you haven’t done that in a while, you aren’t alone according to a copyright collective that collects royalties on blank discs. With slumping blank disc sales, the royalty collecting agency is scrambling to find the next thing to tax to keep revenue money flowing.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The music industry has, for years, pointed to falling physical album sales – even though sometimes those statistics have been questionable – as a reason to ratchet up copyright laws in various countries. So how hard is it getting to sell a physical album when its hard enough to sell blank discs?

According to The Local, lowering blank disc sales including CDs and DVDs are worrying Copyswede, an organization that helps get royalty money from blank disc sales and forwarding them to rights holders. From the article:

Income generated from a copy fee built in to the price of recordable CDs and DVDs — and shared among artists and copyright holders — has almost halved over the last two years. In 2007, sales of blank discs generated 200 million kronor ($28 million) for artists, compared to just 113 million kronor in 2009.

“We’re seeing a technology shift whereby the discs in themselves are no longer of interest. File sharers and others have started using different technologies. Things can instead be stored on people’s computer hard drives or their telephones,” Copyswede’s managing director Mattias Ã…kerlind told news agency TT.

That certainly rings true. When blank discs were all the rage, hard drives were rarely above the 100GB mark which helped to fuel the need for blank discs. Now, hard drives are creeping up to the half a terabyte mark in laptops and climbing up to the 1TB mark on external back-ups and desktop computers. Much harder to run out of space on a 1TB hard drive than it is to fill up an 80GB hard drive to say the least. If there is a need to back up a computer hard drive, one larger external drive does the trick now. No need to rely on DVDrs with a measly 4GB in it when you can pick up a 1TB external hard drive now.

Maybe the positive way one can look at this is the fact that there are less of these discs that will ultimately end up in a landfill since it is probably more environmentally friendly to have 1 external hard drive end up in a landfill compared to hundreds of CD-r’s. Any way to reduce e-Waste is a benefit to the environment considering the toxins that can come out of some of that e-waste.

In any event, the copyright collective is trying to put a new levy on newer technology such as cell phones:

Copyswede’s proposed fee would add around 100 kronor to the cost of a mobile phone with 32 gigabytes of memory. But negotiations have stalled of late, with the organisation enjoying scant support from electronics retailers opposed to price hikes on goods like telephones and hard disks.

The crazy thing is knowing how many organizations (SAC, EFF, etc.) have recommended putting a levy on ISPs and allowing file-sharing to continue unabated, yet rights holders refuse to budge on that even though it would put money in artists hands, give people far fewer headaches over legal threats and reduce the legal bills of rights holders. Maybe the elephant in the room is being ignored because rights holders want to have their cake and eat it too (tax consumers and sue them too).

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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