Portuguese Government Capitulates On Copyright Levies, Despite Lack Of Support From Public And Artists
from the backbone,-what's-that? dept
Back in February last year, Techdirt wrote about the rather pathetic attempts of the Portuguese Society of Authors (SPA) to drum up some support among its members for a new copyright levy on storage devices in the face of a public outcry at the extra costs this would impose on consumer and professional products. This was a dismal failure, and so it's probably no surprise that the Portuguese government didn't move forward with the original plans.
Via Nelson Cruz, we learn that there have been some further developments in this area recently. On January 4, SPA suddenly announced that it was taking the Portuguese government to court for failing to bring in the new copyright levy (original in Portuguese.) And then, just as unexpectedly, the next day it said that it was suspending the legal action. The reason for this change of heart was the intervention of Portugal's Secretary of State for Culture, who got in touch with the president of SPA, and promised to place the copyright levy law before parliament by the end of the month.
It's hard to see why the Portuguese government is capitulating like this when there is so little support for the new law, both among the Portuguese electorate and even among artists, as our previous story reported. That lack of spine is particularly regrettable given the following statement from SPA (original in Portuguese):
the issue of private copying is resolved in all EU countries, except in Portugal, a situation that causes losses of millions of euros to the authors.
This gives the impression that "all" EU countries have copyright levies, but that's certainly not the case. As detailed research carried out in 2011 reported, five out of the 27 EU members states do not have copyright levies -- UK, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg. Moreover, when the Hargreaves Review recommended that the UK government bring in a limited private copying exception without compensation, it explained its reasoning as follows:
As right holders are well aware of consumers' behaviour in this respect [of making private copies], our view is that the benefit of being able to do this is already factored into the price that right holders are charging. A limited private copying exception which corresponds to the expectations of buyers and sellers of copyright content, and is therefore already priced into the purchase, will by definition not entail a loss for right holders.
So not only are copyright levies not universal in Europe, but they are unnecessary, since they can be replaced by ordinary pricing mechanisms that are fairer to users and artists. It's a pity the Portuguese government doesn't seem to realize that rather than meekly acquiescing to the demands of SPA, a far better option would be to abolish copyright levies altogether.