A weird part of Sweden – the cassette fee

Today I feel the need to tell you that Sweden is weird. At least in one aspect. It’s actually legal in Sweden to make a copy of movies and music that you bought. For back-up purposes, ease of use on different devices but also to share with your “close circle” of family and friends. This does not mean that piracy is legal but that we have something called “private copy” (privatkopiering). There’s some important details to remember, for example this goes for things that you’ve bought, a downloaded illegal copy will never become legal.

But wait, this doesn’t sound weird, I hear you saying. You might even think it sounds pretty neat. Onward to the weirdness!

There’s a compensation system for copyright holders for this. This is not unique to Sweden and it’s based on a fee that are being payed on empty media (that’s why it’s called the cassette fee). There’s a couple of weird things here:

  • This gives a fee on all empty media no matter what you use them for. I pay copyright holders for taking back-up of my own photos. Yup, ones that I own the copyright on.
  • Not all music or movie producers will get a cut of the fees collected. It goes through a couple of organizations and from my (in all fairness, not super extensive) research the connection between how many empty CDs are sold and how much money should go to the producer of Titanic is a little unclear.
  • What should count as empty media “dedicated to store” private copies of material (as the law freely translated says) is extremely unclear. Everything if you ask copyswede, the organization that manages the fees. That means tablets, hard drives and (hold on to your hat) cellphones.

Wait wait! Cellphones? Mobiles? The ones we use to make calls, text, instagram, facebook, snapchat and so on? Just the ones. Because you know, they are the same as cassettes, VHS-tapes and empty CDs. When 58% of the Swedish population listens to Spotify, how much should we be paying for making copies of music (2014, Source: Svenskarna och Internet, IIS)?  In the age group 16-25 years old 60% have a paid subscription. When they also have to pay around $30-60 when they buy a phone they are paying the same copyright holders again.

There’s just no logic in this system anymore. Which is why it’s interesting that one of Sweden’s carriers are now going up in the supreme court saying that they shouldn’t have to pay a fee for the phones they are selling, and Samsung is doing the same regarding tablets. We’ll see what happens there. If Copyswede wins I only see one solution – change the law. It’s long overdue to stop talking about a medium that many consumers haven’t used because they weren’t born back then.