Outdated European Copyright Levy System Descends Further Into Disarray

from the put-it-out-of-its-misery dept

A couple of months ago, Ben Zevenbergen explained how the Dutch Supreme Court was finding it difficult to reconcile different aspects of Europe’s copyright rules. At the heart of the problem is the copyright levy system, effectively a tax on blank media that is supposed to compensate copyright holders for a supposed “loss” from copies made for personal use.

One issue is whether this system should also pay for the claimed loss from unauthorized copies. As Techdirt has reported, study after study suggests that people who share files spend more on culture. Despite this, copyright companies cling to the idea that they must be “compensated” for this sharing by yet higher taxes on blank media.

This has led to huge hikes in the German levy, and big increases in the Netherlands, where the manufacturers of equipment subject to the copyright levy have decided to fight back, as reported in this IT World story:

Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Dell and Imation are suing the Dutch government over new levies on hard disks, smartphones, tablets and MP3 players that are meant to compensate the music and movie industries for losses caused by home copying.

The copyright industries want 40 million euros, which the equipment manufacturers think is excessive for a couple of reasons:

The 40 million euros also incorporates damages for illegally downloaded music and movies which, according to the companies, legally cannot be recovered by a levy on devices. Furthermore the Dutch government established a levy on all devices including devices for professional use that are not used for private copying, they said.

Nor are the Dutch companies the only ones that are deeply unhappy with the present copyright levy system. In France, industry groups have recently resigned from the country’s copyright levy commission, not least because the latter’s composition means that copyright industries there are able to set the levies which they themselves will receive (original in French.) As the industry groups point out, this is a crazy situation that naturally encourages fees to be set at unjustifiably-high levels.

It’s hardly surprising that an unsophisticated system originally devised for cassette tapes is proving unworkable for the digital era, where storage is being embedded everywhere, and is constantly increasing in capacity. The tide is turning, as the copyright industries implicitly admitted recently. The latest moves by hardware manufacturers are simply the next stage in a battle whose ultimate outcome seems clear: the complete abolition of outdated and irrelevant copyright levies.

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Comments on “Outdated European Copyright Levy System Descends Further Into Disarray”

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Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Copyright Industry

and compensate them for what they believe are lost sales.

You forgot to include still expecting to have the ability to sue for a gazillion pounds/euros without having to offer proof for any discovered instances of “lost sales” that this alledgedly covers.

Sounds fair to me… /s

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The Copyright Industry

An Industry Ruled by some of the biggest thieves and greedy individuals that have ever existed through all of our known History.
This is an Industry that needs to die quickly and We the People of the World should rise up in whatever we can to Air all their Dirty Laundry and expose them to all peoples of the World.

John says:

I shoot video and video/sound editing work. That requires a ridiculous amount of storage media. I go through hard drives and memory cards like the wind. I need to keep archives & backups of everything for future reference. Much more than anyone sharing.

To me it seems just weird to compensate others for what I use/create.

These copyright lobbies seem intent on making themselves appear just crazy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I work at a small startup. We aren’t huge, but we are already eating through storage space like there’s no tomorrow.

We are using massive amount of data and, on top of that, we make weekly backups of that data (It’s no fun to lose 1TB of client data because a disk decided to make your life miserable and die). I figure that we are buying an average of two disks every month for the servers alone.

So. yeah. These levies aren’t punishing pirates (I figure that pirates aren’t buying one disk every month). They are just putting an extra burden onto businesses that use large amounts of data.

It’s completely unfair.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I figure that we are buying an average of two disks every month for the servers alone.
So. yeah. These levies aren’t punishing pirates (I figure that pirates aren’t buying one disk every month).

Yeah, bit of a no-brainer that if you think about it:
1TB of disk space will store.. what?.. somewhere around 200 films in decent hi-def encoding? Drop to standard def and it’s in the thousands.
On the other hand, if you actually create multi-media for a living you can easily get through multiple TB on a single project if you store your raw and working footage in, say, broadcast quality hi-def.

Given the ease of use and ubiquitousness and low cost of basic multimedia editing tools (hell you can create on your smartphone now out of the box), a rapidly rising percentage of “normal” people who don’t work in multi-media are playing with this stuff and filling up disks with it too. Even my 10-year-old loves creating his own animations.

So we are in a situation where a bunch of asshats are demanding a bigger ransom despite an increasingly smaller percentage of the basis for the ransom being used for “infringing”. Even if one thought it was a reasonable thing to tax media in the first place, surely anyone could see this a nothing more than the money-grab and attempt to hamper competition that it is?

fogbugzd (profile) says:

I disagree with the “you might be a criminal” type of levies in general, but the industry might be just looking forward.

If we get more draconian copyright laws that are actually effective at stopping downloading piracy will still continue in other ways. People may revert more to the old days where pirates passed around physical media. Perhaps the industry wants to increase levies because they foresee a “Back to the Future” scenario where people once again pass around and trade physical media. Maybe I should run out and invest in Memorex.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just curious.......

We are talking something like first sale and the Kirtsaeng case here, but this time against the infinitely more powerful government as opposed to copyright industry.
If it is for personal use I am pretty sure that they let you get a few hundred CDs or something to that extend through customs no problem. If it is for selling them later, you are going to go into tax evasion territory and you are therefore a “smuggler”.

RD says:

Re: Re:

“Wait a second: If they’ve a levy on blank media, why are they enforcing copyright via ISP lockdowns, arresting people, and strike laws?”

Because they want to have it both ways. They want to cry to the govt and say “we NEED levys to compensate us for loses from piracy!!” then turn around and cry “we NEED more enforcement (that YOU pay for) and higher damages to compensate us for loses from piracy!!”

It is exactly the same mentality as when they try to claim that, on the one hand, you are purchasing (“buy it on DVD TODAY!”) and then turn around and claim you actually only bought a license (higher damages, screwing the artists on things like digital sales).

Please, ootb and all the other shills, remind us again who is really the “thief” here? I really want to hear the justification for that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

These levies are just part of a bigger scheme of government funded compensation, that includes library money, direct economic company support, tax-exemptions/holes and several other smaller streams from research and other state funds they can dip into. If they lose those levy money it would not be even close to the end of government financing. The real truth is that it is a way to push for more government money to support them. It is not even close to being economically favourable in itself (the cost of administrationg and enforcing these laws are taking a significant cut of the money). It is for governments to be able to say, “see we did something for you!” to the creative industries. Another levy is trivial for the government to push for since there are so many to begin with in europe.

JJ Joseph (profile) says:

Re: Re: Way Excellent CD tax

Exactly, Jupiter! Canada has a similar CD tax that permits unrestricted music downloading. It’s way excellent. The revenue gets divided up amongst the rights holders. We can download all the music we want from anywhere we choose. What’s not to like about that? It’s not perfect, but it’s close to a good solution. At the very least, it protects citizens from shakedowns and takedowns.

Anonymous Coward says:

while those, even outside the copyright/entertainment industries themselves, that are setting these levys have such little knowledge or interest in sorting out the whole problem in a fair and just way, nothing is going to get sorted. the absolute wrong way to go is to continuously take notice of the load of bollocks that the industries keep spouting, whilst at the same time continuously ignoring all of the independent information that dispels completely the industries information.

out_of_the_blue says:

Only "40 million euros"? In real money, that's like 20 bucks.

Seriously, it’s inconsequential in a trillion dollar economy. It’s 0.04 of a billion, then one thousandth of that = 0.00004. And that’s a major problem, even if unjust?

No, I think the drive for this is more likely from grifters who want to effectively do away with copyright. After all, 40M euros is around one fourth of the cash that just Kim Dotcom got from illegal infringing, so the smaller sleazeballs have HIGH interest in unlicensed copies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Only "40 million euros"? In real money, that's like 20 bucks.

When you find the trillions of dollars that were stolen from artists by the man on the street, out_of_the_asscrack, you let us know. Because clearly the average person/pirate is walking around with millions of dollars worth of “stolen content”, whatever the hell that means.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

The content companies are stealing from me

Actual stealing, as in dollars out of my pocket. These fees anger me because I make my purchasing decisions based in part on the behavior of the companies themselves. I do not purchase (or pirate) music made by RIAA member labels because I do not want a single dime of my money going to help them continue what I believe to be immoral behavior.

However, these fees mean that I am being forced to pay them even when I am not doing anything that is connected with them in any way. It’s outright theft.

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s such a great shame that there aren’t more companies in more countries going down the same road against the copyright industries. why should anyone be compensated for something that might happen? i might fall over and break my leg next week, should i get compensation from the council as a ‘just in case’ payment? the other thing is that the copyright/entertainment industries will do their damnedest to put such a high levy in place that the companies selling the media and products associated with the media, that no one would buy. that would be the aim of the industries and there would be no compensation from them for the media etc not sold! caring what happens to any company other than their own is never on the list. expecting every other company to prop them up is what they are all about!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There is also this:


Levies are not of the past in europe, it exploded in 2001 and is still expanding heavily! Its only Mike thinking that it is receding. I am pretty sure that most europeans are seeing it as constantly expanding. What the companies are suing for is essentially getting the levies standardized. They are not going away any time soon.

DannyB (profile) says:

These levies are ridiculous

These levies are ridiculous because they do not go far enough.

Did they bother to levy blank copier paper, which can be used to make infringing copies?

Did they even consider blank notebook paper or tablets, upon which copyrighted works can be hand written?

Then we come to the tools used to make those infringing copies.

It is manifestly obvious that inkjet cartridges are priced so low because end users are not paying their fair share to copyright owners.

Not to mention laser printer toner cartridges, ball point pens, crayons, paints, and on and on. THIEVES CAN USE THESE TOOLS TO MAKE INFRINGING COPIES!!!

Then we come to the printers and copiers themselves. I won’t even bother to mention the amount of levy that a CD/DVD optical disk writable drive should have.

The people who make all of the above, papers, inks, etc, also should have secondary copyright liability for being “facilitators and enablers”. I think that is the term the copyright dinosaurs use.

So Yes Glyn, er, ooops, I meant to say Pirate Mike . . .
you are correct. These levies originally intended for cassette tapes are outdated and need to be brought into the 21st century.

PS: OOTB you need to start talking about Tertiary Liability. This goes beyond mere Secondary Liability to cover three levels removed facilitators and enablers, such as electric utilities, delivery truck services, etc.

JJ Joseph (profile) says:

Re: Re: These levies are [quite excellent]

I wish printers/copiers were included! In Canada, cassettes & CDs are taxed which allows for free downloading of music. If DVDs/hard-drives were taxed, we could download movies freely. If printers/copiers were taxed, we could copy books freely. It’s not perfect, but it spares us from random shakedowns and takedowns. Count me as a tax supporter – I really like media taxes and I’d like to see more of them.

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