Sweden Imposes "TV Tax" On Internet Users

What do you do when internet video and web-based on-demand entertainment blasts television to obsolescence? You let evolution take its course, and let television go the way of the dinosaur. If you're the Swedish entertainment industry that just successfully witch-hunted ThePirateBay off to the Caribbean, then you will come up with a proposal as ridiculous as the one just ratified by a Swedish court.

Sweden is among the few countries that charges its residents with a "television license" that runs into 173 SEK (US $26 a month), which pays for the public service broadcasting by state-run networks. State television is ad-free during news broadcasts and public service announcements, which guarantees credibility.

The new ruling lets the state broadcaster impose the same "television license" on internet users at large, that happen to consume TV-like entertainment on PCs, laptops, and handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets. This content could even be proprietary, distributed by the likes of Netflix, in which Swedish state broadcasters would have zero role to play in distribution, yet they would get their cut. Sweden began imposing this "television license" to pretty much every "computer owner."

The move to charge internet users that don't use a television, or already pay television license for their TV sets, sparked off a massive backlash on social networks. A court in the northern Swedish town of Lulea, which has been hearing appeals against this "television license" on computer owners, recently dismissed 20 of them.

The court views every computer, tablet, and smartphone as a "television receiver."

"Even if a computer is primarily used for other purposes, one of its uses these days is to receive TV programs," the court said on its website, adding that "Since it is the ownership of the equipment that is subject to a fee, it is of no significance to that liability whether the person maybe does not use the computer to watch TV programs."

This is another of those cases that could escalate all the way up to Stockholm.