Outdated European Copyright Levy System Descends Further Into Disarray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.