Australia Copyright Agency to schools: pay Internet licenses or shut down the net!

Australian schools may have to pay a copyright fee every time a student is told to look at the web, if a plan from the national collecting society is successful. The Copyright Agency pays Australian authors for the photocopying that takes place on schools by randomly sampling the schools annually, collecting $31 million in fees and dispersing them to authors.

Now they say that they deserve to collect for the use of the Web. Despite the fact that there's an implied license to read Web pages that goes along with publishing them (who puts up a web-page without expecting it to be read?) and despite the fact that the vast majority of pages online weren't created by Australians, and despite the fact that the vast majority of pages created by Australians weren't created by professional authors, the agency proposes that it should be able to collect a tax on behalf of all those authors in the world in order to line the pockets of its few lucky members.

This is a way to transfer Australia's tax dollars from its education system to its copyright sector. Australia already has an arts council that gives money directly to artists — if it wants to give them more money, it should get a bigger budget and do so, not trump up some kind of ridiculous Internet tax that could cost schools their Internet connections:

Negotiations between the Ministerial Council on Education Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, representing the schools, and the agency have broken down over plans to change the scheme to include a question in the survey on whether teachers direct students to use the internet.

"If it turned out we'd have to pay them, we'd turn the internet off in schools," the council's national copyright director Delia Browne said.

"We couldn't afford it; it would not be sustainable. How on earth are we going to deliver education in the 21st century? How are taxpayers going to afford this."

Canada's doomed Bill C-60 had a proposal for this, too. Luckily for Canada, they kicked out Sam Bulte, the Hollywood-bought lawmaker who had led the charge for C-60.


(Thanks, Daz!)