Belgian ISPs pressured to pay piracy levy

Remember those plans to legalize music file sharing in exchange for a flat monthly fee? Belgian music rights group Sabam now has its own unique take on these kinds of alternative compensation schemes: It wants ISPs to pay for the music their customers trade — but still keep file sharing illegal.
TorrentFreak reported Thursday morning that Sabam wants Belgian ISPs to pay 3.4 percent of their subscribers’ monthly fees.
From the story:

“Sabam base their claim on a provision in the Copyright Act of 1994, which states that authors should be paid for any ‘public broadcast’ of a song. According to Sabam, downloads and streams on the Internet are such public broadcasts, and they are therefore entitled to proper compensation. This 3.4 percent share is the same amount as the copyright fees on cable television.”

The flip side of Sabam’s demands is that this levy is only meant to compensate rights holders for the ISP’s use of the music and not for the actual behavior of its customers. In other words: File traders would still break the law, even if their swapping was covered by a public performance fee like the one proposed by Sabam.
That may sound crazy, but it actually has more to do with the complexities of music licensing than Sabam’s current plans. The group only represents authors, composers and publishers, and it administers rights to the composition of the songs in its catalog. The actual recordings are owned by record companies, which aren’t compensated through this plan.