Friday, December 31, 2004

German PC Levy

Germany will be the first (European) country where a copyright levy is imposed on PCs. The District Court of Munich has decided that Germany's largest computer maker Fujitsu Siemens has to pay a levy of 12 euro to rights society VG Wort for any of their computers sold in the country. Other manufacturers will also be copytaxed for their computers. VG Wort plans to enforce this landmark decision countrywide.

Levies have been used on a large scale in Europe and seek to compensate for lost revenues from private copying, not for copyright infringement, through p2p networks, for example. The system has its roots in Germany, notably in the landmark
Personalausweise case (Bundesgerichtshof, May 1964). Now the country expands its heritage to the general purpose PC. The current concern is that consumers will have to pay a levy, while not being able to make a private copy due to DRMs. A consumer who wants to rip a bought CD to the hard disk of his taxed computer may be prevented from doing so by DRMs. As a result consumers are burdened by a double restriction: a PC levy and DRM. With a bit of "luck" consumers can truly make this "double charged" (levy + DRM restricition) argument in the future, when the computer is degraded to a DRMed platform. For now Germany has the questionable scoop of being the first and only country in Europe where PCs will be taxed in an era that DRM is gaining ground.

BTW, in the meantime a Canadian court has ruled that the application of a levy on digital audio recorders, such as Apple's iPod, is improper [
Decision, PDF].
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German PC Levy News thru ITWorld


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