Nov 25 2011
Germany is a funny country. As in most other countries, we have laws in place that protect “intellectual property” and enforce “copyrights”. Basically, illegal digital copies are… well, illegal.
The funny thing now is, that the copyright owners pushed something else through the Bundestag a long time ago: The so-called “Urheberrechtsabgabe” on storage media and copying machines. Whenever you buy a hard disk, a USB thumb drive, a blank CD or even a traditional copying machine, there is a “Urheberrechtsabgabe” included in the purchase price that does not go to the seller or manufacturer of the media or machine, but that goes directly to the society of copyright owners. This is meant to compensate them for digital copies of their content – copies that you are by law not allowed to create, but still have to pay for nonetheless.
Repeat: When you buy storage media or copying machines in Germany, you pay a tribute for something that you are NOT allowed to do by law. (Yes, I know, there are some clumsy exceptions for so-called private copies, but technical you have no explicit legal right to create a private copy, you just can do it under certain circumstances without the threat of legal punishment – that’s something entirely different.)
Now the copyright owners are demanding a significant increase of the Urheberrechtsabgabe – or Wegezoll, as the medieval waylayers in Germany would have called it. Of course without giving anything back to the consumers and customers, as, for example, the explicit right to create digital copies. After all, you just paid them for that – but you are still not allowed to do it.
This is just another example for the many things that have gone totally absurd in the realm of “intellectual property”. The masses of people are supposed to bow before the will of a few content owners and are forced to feed the copyright holders’ insatiable greed with their hard-earned money without getting anything back in return. It’s no wonder that the copyright owners have earned the name “Content Mafia” in the streets.
But the Urheberrechtsabgabe is just the tip of the iceberg. The German “Abmahnwesen” is even more cynical. Actually, copyright owners can request a list of network connections from a certain timeframe from an Internet Service Provider so that they can check which household might have downloaded a movie or music file from one of the many file sharing and peer networks on the Internet — WITHOUT a court order or police assistance. Then, WITHOUT a court order, they can send an “Abmahnung” to those households, which basically is an invoice of arbitrary height (usually starting in the four digits range before the decimal comma) and the threat to get sued if you don’t sign a paper that says that you will never do any of this again. And by German laws, you are actually required to pay FIRST and ONLY THEN can you take the next legal steps. Isn’t that lovely? This is at least as insane and totally out of proportion as the average US-American copyright lawsuit.
Eventually, it all comes down to this: A financially well-situated lobby of a minority bought itself all the laws that it needed to operate independently from the government and the country’s official legal system to milk as much money out of everybody as it sees fit.
If this is our time’s understanding of democracy, then you find me totally disgusted by this idea and I don’t want any part of it.