Ruling From EU's Top Court Confirms Copyright Levies Are A Ridiculous, Unworkable Mess

from the big-fat-nothing dept

In the last year, Techdirt has posted a couple of stories about court decisions that underline the fact that the EU system of copyright levies is an unworkable mess. A new ruling from the EU's highest court, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has confirmed this once more, but for different reasons. The levies are supposed to compensate copyright holders for an alleged "loss" arising from copies made for personal use. The case concerns Spain's implementation of the system, which pays money directly from the state's budget. That's obviously much simpler than the complicated approach that involves collecting a levy placed on storage devices that varies according to their size -- a system used in other European countries. However, the CJEU has found a problem with Spain's method (pdf):

the Court notes that the [EU's] private copying exception is intended exclusively for natural persons who make, or have the capacity to make, reproductions of protected works or subject matter for private use and for non-commercial ends. It is those persons who cause harm to the rightholders and who are, in principle, required to finance, in return, the fair compensation payable to those rightholders. For their part, legal persons are excluded from benefiting from that exception.
The issue here is that under the 2001 EU Copyright Directive, only "natural persons" -- people -- are allowed to make personal copies, whereas "legal persons" -- companies -- are not. But in Spain, the private copying exception is funded from the general government budget, and therefore inevitably includes monies gathered as taxes from companies. The CJEU says that's not allowed, because it's the ones doing the private copying -- the "natural persons" -- who must pay, and no one else. The court pointed out:
it has not been established that there is a particular measure in Spain allowing legal persons to request to be exempted from contributing to the financing of that compensation or, at least, to seek reimbursement.
It's really not clear how that could be done in practice. Maybe by allocating a tiny tax rebate to companies by way of "reimbursement" for the copyright levy payment made from the state budget. But that would add yet another layer of complexity to the tax system, hardly a welcome outcome. It would be far simpler just to get rid of the unwieldy and anachronistic copyright levy system altogether. It's time to recognize that everybody has a fundamental right to make copies of stuff they own, and that the "fair compensation" for doing that is a big, fat nothing.

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 15 Jun 2016 @ 3:44am

    "I don't deserve to get paid once, I deserve to get paid EVERY time."

    the [EU's] private copying exception is intended exclusively for natural persons who make, or have the capacity to make, reproductions of protected works or subject matter for private use and for non-commercial ends. It is those persons who cause harm to the rightholders and who are, in principle, required to finance, in return, the fair compensation payable to those rightholders.

    The idea was stupid when it was first suggested, and it remains just as stupid now.

    For personal and/or non-commercial use to cause any sort of 'harm' you basically have to assume that every use would have resulted in an entirely new purchase. That someone backing up a CD to their computer would have been willing to instead buy the contents again if only they didn't have the ability to format shift the contents. That any use of the 'protected' content would have resulted in a new purchase, multiple times, if only there wasn't the ability to copy it completely for free and with minimal effort.

    It doesn't take much consideration at all to realize that this is simply not the case, that people would not just shrug their shoulders and licence the exact same content multiple times, paying the same cost each time, and would instead likely just do without.

    When the entire premise of an idea is based upon an absurdity, that format shifting/private copying is somehow 'harmful' because without the ability to do so people would happily pay several times over for exact same content you don't have to look very carefully to see it for what is actually is: A cash grab, an attempt to get free money by charging multiple times for the same product.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 4:47am

      Re: "I don't deserve to get paid once, I deserve to get paid EVERY time."

      These guys have obviously never heard of Assassin's Creed: Unity. That was such utter dreck at launch.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 15 Jun 2016 @ 4:57am

      Re: "I don't deserve to get paid once, I deserve to get paid EVERY time."

      Well, you saved me writing up most of a diatribe around the "It is those persons who cause harm to the rightholders" theme.

      It's like saying people skipping breakfast cause harm to bakeries.

      Business is not entitled to people behaving in a manner maximizing profit.

      It's nice that the court arrived at a sensible decision in the end but it still would seem to have quaffed up the corporate cool-aid.

      The problem is that the verdict does not make a whole lot of sense in the context of having copying levies at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Jason, 15 Jun 2016 @ 5:57am

      Re: "I don't deserve to get paid once, I deserve to get paid EVERY time."

      For personal and/or non-commercial use to cause any sort of 'harm' you basically have to assume that every use would have resulted in an entirely new purchase.
      The thing is, that's probably exactly what they really want. A fee for every single viewing, read, and listen. You don't think there's some file somewhere in Hollywood with memos about how great it will be when they can mandate that every time you turn on the TV (or computer) you have to swipe your credit card?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 3:58am

    'It's time to recognize that everybody has a fundamental right to make copies of stuff they own, and that the "fair compensation" for doing that is a big, fat nothing'

    will you please stop trying to bring any sort of common sense into this argument! you know already that that is the quickest and easiest way to completely fuck up the thinking of anyone of power, trying to understand what should be happening!! giving the people what they should have had all along, doesn't put money into the coffers of those making the decisions!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 4:31am

    "Maybe by allocating a tiny tax rebate to companies by way of "reimbursement" for the copyright levy payment made from the state budget."

    I'm sure the copyright holders will loudly voice an objection to any money being reduced from Spain's state budget that is given to companies because those companies are exempt as being "legal persons" because that money will no longer be given to the copyright holders.

    If a copyright levy tax exemption is now given to companies then the copyright holders will no doubt demand a copyright levy tax be introduced for companies to pay the copyright holders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MadAsASnake (profile), 15 Jun 2016 @ 4:50am

    And only hinted at of course, there is the presumption in this that all natural persons are doing this, when it is far from the case. Same thing happens with media levies - why should I pay a levy to "rightsholders" for the media I use to back stuff up on? I shouldn't. period.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 15 Jun 2016 @ 4:57am

    These levies are fundamentally flawed. Suppose I make a copy of some content so I can keep the original in a good state for years or I want to backup my legally purchased digital files. If there is a levy placed on them I'm paying the creator (assuming the money does reach the creator) for content I already own. Or a company that buys media for their activity that has absolutely nothing to do with anything remotely copyrightable that is also paying the levy, because reasons.

    And that without even exploring the fact that such money will hardly ever reach the artists and when it does it will only go for the few very successful ones effectively denying the very reason copyright (should) exist: to promote creation. Major artists do not need further incentive to create, they already have the incentive flowing in. Smaller artists on the other hand? And yet these smaller artists actually wouldn't benefit from copyright at all if they actively enforced it simply because they NEED eyeballs, ears, they NEED sharing, advertising from those who love them to spread their work.

    Copyright is a sham.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 5:14am

    Abolish Copyright

    problem solved

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 6:14am

    What happened TD?

    I though you guys loved you some regulation? THIS is regulation!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 6:26am

      Re: What happened TD?

      Did you hurt your wrist backhanding that false dichotomy?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 6:51am

        Re: Re: What happened TD?

        Whoa! How is this a false Dichotomy? If this is enforced by an Authority then technically is is a law right? A ruling from a court affects the law. Remember, my objective here is to try to get people to think about these things differently. In these cases, we need to change the vernacular in use here.

        reg·u·la·tion
        ˌreɡ(y)əˈlāSH(ə)n/
        noun
        noun: regulation; plural noun: regulations

        1.
        a rule or directive made and maintained by an authority.
        "planning regulations"
        synonyms: rule, ruling, order, directive, act, law, bylaw, statute, edict, canon, pronouncement, dictate, dictum, decree, fiat, command, precept
        "they obey all the regulations"
        in accordance with regulations; of the correct type.
        modifier noun: regulation
        "regulation army footwear"
        synonyms: official, prescribed, set, fixed, mandatory, compulsory, obligatory, de rigueur
        "regulation dress"
        antonyms: unofficial
        informal
        of a familiar or predictable type; formulaic; standardized.
        "a regulation Western parody"
        2.
        the action or process of regulating or being regulated.
        "the regulation of financial markets"
        synonyms: adjustment, control, management, balancing More
        "the regulation of blood sugar"
        supervision, policing, superintendence, monitoring, inspection;
        control, management, ordering
        "the regulation of financial services"

        Translate regulation to
        Use over time for: regulation

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 15 Jun 2016 @ 6:33am

      Regulation. Regulation. Regula- Oh look, you're here again

      You might want to see someone about your obsession with regulation, because it can't be healthy to focus so much on all things regulation to the point where you make comments regarding regulations even when it has nothing to do with the subject at hand. A tax does not a regulation make, unless you're using a definition of the word regulation that differs notably from what I'm aware of.

      Now then, have I used the dreaded 'R Word' enough to get my point across, or need I use it a few more times for good measure?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 6:57am

        Re: Regulation. Regulation. Regula- Oh look, you're here again

        I appreciate your concern, but there is a purpose to this.

        Not to be a troll, but to get people to focus on the fact that words to mean certain things.

        When we say we want regulation, your political critter thinks you want THEM to take total control or what ever control they deem necessary.

        Look at the term Copyright in this case. Copyright is regulation, all law is technically regulation, but the problem being is each term of usage is specific. Copyright is regulation over a specific area while the term regulation just means EVERYTHING under the legal sun.

        Getting the point yet? I don't think anyone will. But it is a very important one to understand. When we say we want regulation, everyone knows that we mean we want sane laws, but also just gave your corrupt law makers an easy out. If we change the language WE use when calling for reform in government to be more specific we might be able to finally change the course of discussion to one that works in our favor.

        There are tons of subjects that are greatly and negatively affected by low brow semantics when we need to get technical instead.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 15 Jun 2016 @ 6:57am

      Re: What happened TD?

      I though you guys loved you some regulation? THIS is regulation!


      Huh?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 7:09am

        Re: Re: What happened TD?

        Yes, I am TRYING to go somewhere with this. Yes I am the asshat that has been annoying to mess out of you guys the past couple of days, but I AM trying to get a point across here there I think people are summarily dismissing without real thought into the subject matter! Sure I am frustrated too!

        Law is regulation by its very definition. Taxes are enforced by Law, therefore Taxes = Regulation. Therefore this Article is a regulatory subject.

        Not really trying to derail the conversation but trying to tie all these subject matters into a larger conversation that comprises all of these things.

        Hoping to get people to start changing our conversations when dealing with discourse or approval of government actions so that we can for once control the message they receive from us plebs.

        In the case of this article, since the Taxes, The Laws, the Regulations, are not Anti-Trust or Anti-Capitalist focused we need them to get rid of them. These "Regulatory Taxes" are just mechanisms to screw the citizens so a fat rich exec gets to line his damn pockets, and use that money he just got to buy a new politician to keep the same Regulatory Tax going or to maybe even add new ones!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 7:11am

          Re: Re: Re: What happened TD?

          Meant to Say Anti-Monopoly not Anti-Capitalist. Though as a funny joke they are usually the same thing in the end game, but not the same in the front game.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 8:21am

          Re: Re: Re: What happened TD?

          "es I am the asshat that has been annoying to mess out of you guys the past couple of days,"

          Got part of it right anyway......

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          TripMN, 15 Jun 2016 @ 9:55am

          Re: Re: Re: What happened TD?

          Dude, calm it and slow it down.

          Now I think you haven't been paying attention or reading TD for that long, so as a long time reader, let me set some things straight.

          1 - TD for the most part is anti-copyright as it stands now, anti-patents as they stand now, and for or against other regulations depending on if they protect the citizen or harm it. So from that standpoint and what I can tell of your 'Anti-Trust or Anti-Monopoly' stance, you are on the same side AFAICT.

          2 - TD brings up stories like this to point out how things are currently in the world/news, but doesn't always point exactly to what their core beliefs are. In this case, Glyn definitely thinks these taxes (or regulations as you are calling them) are an absurdity and need to go away, but he's calling attention to the fact a ruling was made that goes in the right direction, even if for the wrong reasons.

          3 - If you want discourse, then be a good citizen of this site, read up, and stop shouting/being a douche-canoe. If you continue those antics, everyone will ignore you, rather than engage, no matter what your standing or ideas are.

          Have a good day.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 11:28am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: What happened TD?

            Got it, have to engage in discourse in only they way you approve or do not engage, treat as troll.

            Let me help you with something.

            Regulation is an umbrella term for law. I hate regulation because I also hate law. This does not mean that I am saying that NONE should exist. Just saying that we need to skip meaningless drivel and speak to specifics. Anti-Trust & Anti-Monopoly speaks to very specific types of Regulation. This will naturally preclude all Regs or Laws that do not work in that vein. You all are hating me for it.

            lets draw a parallel.

            Food is an umbrella term. TD posts an article on how the FCC's food regarding the Telco Industry is good/bad. Just what does this mean? Not really anything, sure we do get into some of the details, but the general response is really just saying give us FOOD, we dont CARE WHICH FOOD IT JUST NEED TO TASTE GOOD!

            Guess what what does? Nothing, they do give you some good food and use it to cover up the rotten food you wash down with it.

            Now if we say fuck the food, give us Hamburgers & Salads, then they have difficulty getting the Olives into the Hamburgers and Buns into the salads.

            I am quite certain none of this makes any sense to you guys, not because you are incapable of it, but because you refuse to try. Here is not different than the rest of the world were everything needs to come wrapped up in a very simple and cheesy bow, so we can all gather around a campfire, kick the words and results around and still achieve nothing.

            We need to shit-can asking for Regulation, and start using only terms that can be applied to specific and narrow regulation. Yes, you can tell me but that is what you really are asking for, but in a word, its not. Be specific, be technical, say it in a way where they cannot be allowed to give you any regulation. Order A FUCKING HAMBURGER INSTEAD OF FOOD!!!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Ninja (profile), 15 Jun 2016 @ 10:05am

          Re: Re: Re: What happened TD?

          Quoting Mike:

          Huh?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 2:54pm

          Re: Re: Re: What happened TD?

          Yes, you being an annoying dickheard sure did open up my mind to whatever bogus claptrap you're peddling. Please insult me more!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2016 @ 3:13pm

    This is the first time I've heard you can sue for your taxes not corresponding exactly to the services you receive.

    If the case stands, well, there goes taxation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2016 @ 8:37am

    "Private copy exception" is a fucking joke in Portugal. I can't copy anything legally from the set-top box (provided by the ISP) to my computer. When people buy, for example, a HDD or USB they are putting money in the pockets of the copyright monopoly. It fucking stinks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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