Why should Bono benefit from totalitarian web technology?


Once again, U2’s Bono has begun the New Year by announcing that he’d like not only like to have his cake, but that he intends to gobble it all up. By himself.

If you’ve emerged from the festive season with less than normally alert hypocrisy sensors, prepare for an instant recalibration. This is from the BBC.

Writing for the New York Times, Bono claimed internet service providers were “reverse Robin Hoods” benefiting from the music industry’s lost profits.

He hinted that China’s efforts prove that tracking net content is possible.

If I get this right, your man is saying that ISPs are robbing from – ahem – penniless artists like Bono, to give to themselves. And to suggest that the answer lies in totalitarian technology (it doesn’t by the way – it’s too flawed) is utterly gobsmacking.

The most grotesque bit, though, is the phrase ‘reverse Robin Hoods’. This is coming from a man who benefited from an Irish tax loophole that meant U2 paid no tax on royalties until 2006. And, when it looked as though they would have to, they moved their tax affairs to the Netherlands to pay a much lower rate of tax than the stupidly low 12.5% they would have had to pay in Ireland.

There’s nothing illegal in this, of course. But one does have to wonder how ethical it is to choose not to pay millions of dollars in tax in one’s home country, effectively depriving the Irish Government of income that would in part be used for social welfare. It’s also hard not to consider the possibility that tax havens are used for illicit flows of finance out of developing countries, as suggested by Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network.

Diverting money from the poor to give to the rich? That’s putting rights before responsibilities if you ask me – a sort of ‘reverse Robin Hood’ if you prefer.

Something tells me that Bono won’t see it that way. Internet freedom, anyone?

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