The Super Canon

Enrique Dans. Professor. IE Business School

12 April 2011

In spite of Europe’s condemnation of Spain’s digital canon, the government and opposition are taking scant notice as they prepare new pseudotaxes to throw at Spanish citizens.

Remember Spain’s famous digital canon? Yes, that arbitrary tax which copywright collection agencies - mainly the SGAE (General Society of Spanish Authors) - collect at citizens’ expense. It is applied to a wide range of items (CDs, DVDs, mobile phones, computers, USB memory sticks, etc.) as a preventive measure in case we decide to use them to store work which is liable for royalties.

Yes, I mean the very canon the European Union said could not be charged to companies or institutions, since they didn’t have the right to make private copies. The very canon about which collection agencies said “now we’ve got it we’re not giving it back”. The very canon that could not be refunded and which the Popular Party specifically mentioned in their electoral promise, saying that they would remove it.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. In the amendment which PSOE, PP and CiU have agreed in order to reintroduce the Sinde bill in the articles of the Law of Sustainable Economy, the PP insisted the subject of the digital canon be presented. And you will be amazed. Instead of asking for it to be eliminated, as was presumably their intention, they simply asked for it ‘to be reviewed’ in three months’ time. And when the Ministry of Culture was asked about it, it was clear about its intentions: increase the number of devices which will be subject to the canon, apply it to Internet connections, and design a particularly tedious, complicated process to prevent firms and public bodies from recuperating a tax which has been unduly charged. So we will have more canons, a canon on steroids, a super canon. And all this just to keep collection agencies happy.

If nobody wants a canon, well that’s just tough. If companies and institutions don’t pay the canon "because Europe won’t allow it," it’ll be the citizens who fill the coffers of the collection agencies and end up paying even more. If you want an explanation, you can always ask the people who said they would get rid of the canon: Mariano Rajoy and the Popular Party.

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