Portugal considers 'Terabyte Tax'

In what legislators are calling an attempt to “bring old legislation into the 21st century”, the Portuguese parliament is considering taxation on storage devices, in an attempt to protect copyright holders.

According to one local media outlet, Exame Informatica, the ‘minor’ legislative update proposed by the Portuguese Socialist Party (currently in the opposition) in Portugal, would have consumers forking out for a new tax on storage devices, all in the name of copyright protection – yet all but killing off HDD sales in the country.

The proposal would have consumers paying an extra 0.2 per gigabyte in tax, almost 21 extra per terabyte of data on hard drives. Devices with storage capacities in excess of 1TB would pay an aggravated tax of 2.5 cents per GB. That means a 2TB device will in fact pile on €51.2 in taxes alone (2.5 cents times 2048GB). External drives or “multimedia drives” as the proposed bill calls them, in capacities greater than 1TB, can be taxed to the tune of 5 cents per gigabyte, so in theory, a 2TB drive would cost an additional 103.2 per unit (5 cents times 2048GB). This would be enough to singlehandedly stall PC and component sales. Let’s not even consider the ongoing effects of the flooding in Thailand. We won’t even attempt a parody at formatted capacity vs. raw capacity.

Ironically, under the original format of the bill, hard-drives under the capacity of 150GB are exempt of this tax. Of course, the odds of finding anything on sale below 160GB is unlikely these days, unless it’s an SSD, a sort of grey area for this bill.

USB pens and memory cards will be taxed at 6 cents to the gigabyte, while internal storage on mobile phones and other similar storage devices will be charged 50 cents to the gigabyte. Yes, your 64GB iPhone would become 32  more expensive.

Copy devices would also be affected by this legislation: photocopiers and multi function printers would also be taxed according to the number of pages copied per minute, with a 70 ppm MFP being charged up to 227  more per device.

In Portugal, storage devices like DVDs and CDs pay a 3 percent fixed surtax, besides VAT, as a sort of penalty for being copyright violation enablers.

A Socialist Party parliamentarian was quoted as having said that home users would not feel the pinch as the tax was aimed at professionals who use larger capacity drives.

This is not an isolated case of legislative numbnuttery. It now seems to run rampant in the current Portuguese legislature, what with new taxation being created left right and centre, in an attempt to stave off another ‘Greece’.

One recent and particularly obvious money grab was the creation of electronic tolls on motorways leading into neighbouring Spain, which not only peeved the locals when going about their daily business, but also annoyed Spaniards who were not made fully aware of the implications, and were unable to pay in any fashion other than standing in very long queues for hours on end.