Kudos to Cory Doctorow for his Boing Boing post about an Australian group that wants to charge students and educators a viewing tax each time a student goes to the Web to do research.
Here’s how this would work, according to an article at AustralianIT.com:
The Copyright Agency (CA) already does a random sampling of school photocopies each year, and assesses a royalty charge that is paid, in a lump sum, to the CA – which then distributes the money to authors and the like. Now the CA wants to extend its financial reach to the Web, which has, one might expect, reduced the number of photocopies that teachers make. (As a former secondary and collegiate teacher, I can say that I almost never made use of photocopies.)
It’s hard to fault rights groups that collect royalties for wanting to make sure their clients are getting paid; however, as Cory points out, who in the world puts up information on the Web with the expectation that it won’t be viewed? The inherent power of the Web and the Internet is that they allow people to gain exposure. My guess – and this is simply from covering this area for some time, and by no means represents a scientific analysis – is that the real push for this comes from the agency, not the creators themselves (who often see very little of that money).