Buying blank cds to back up my ever-growing collection of photographs, I am reminded of university days when I studied Adam’s Smiths canons of taxation.
Every blank cd sold in Spain is subject to el canon – popularly referred to as “un impuesto por si acaso“. That pretty much describes it: a “just-in-case tax”.
The canon is levied on each cd virgen just in case you deflower the pristine disc with illegally copied music or other works subject to the payment of derechos de autor under the laws of la propiedad intelectual. And, of course, dvds, mp3 players, pen drives (memory sticks), hard discs and recording devices are all subject to the tax, too.
According to the local comptuer guy, in the case of a dvd, el canon is currently 60¢. That’s 60% of the actual price you pay – unless you can persuade the retailer to put something like “mano de obra” on the bill instead, in which case you’ll pay just 40¢ per disc.
There were four criteria proposed by Smith to judge how good a tax was: equity, certainty, convenience and simplicity.
Sure, el canon is simple and cheap for the government to collect, and it’s pretty clear what to the consumer what he’s going to pay. It’s even ‘convenient’ for the taxpayer inasmuch as he won’t suddenly find himself way in arrears as it’s paid at the moment of purchase. But “equity”? Here the system seems to be lacking.
I’m totally in favour of artists and authors getting paid what they are due for their work. What really annoys me here, though, is that I have to pay this tax “just in case” I am doing something illegal. The fact that I want cds, dvds and the rest to back up my own writing and photos, or to pass copies of creative projects to clients who are paying for them and for which I will never recieve royalties, is beyond ironic.