Sunday, January 23, 2005

German PC & Printer Levy Appealed

Two German court decisions establishing a levy on PCs and printers are likely to be appealed. Recently a court in Munich decided that computer maker Fujitsu Siemens has to pay a levy of 12 euros to rights society VG Wort for any computer sold in Germany. A Stuttgart court decided separately that printers could be defined as copy-making devices and therefore the levy regime would apply on them too.

EICTA, the European trade organisation for ICT and consumer electronics, has made clear the decisions will likely be appealed. A board member said:
"We question whether German law allows for the imposition of copyright levies on PCs and printers. Claiming a new levy on printers is totally unreasonable. People simply do not buy a printer with the aim of making countless copies of a copy protected work."
Unreasonable or not, if the PC levy is in line with (upcoming) German law may not be that questionable at all. At least when the current draft for German Copyright reform is taken into account. As pointed out in an earlier post this draft chooses for a remuneration scheme that will include devices that are actually in use to make private copies. Not so much the (sole) copying intention will determine if a remuneration is due, but the percentage to which the device is used to copy. This percentage will determine what has to be paid.

As the reasoning for the German copyright proposal states (p. 23):
"[Therefore] the draft suggests tying the remuneration obligation in the future only to the actual considerable use of the devices for copying copyrighted content. Not the respective use of the individual devices or storage media is determinant in this case, but whether these are typically used for the copying." (unofficial translation)
Under this reasoning a levy on a PC is actually likely to be upheld. If this will be a 12 euros, or another amount, is something else. If this is reasonable, for users, is something else altogether. The German trade association Bitkom has calculated that the PC levy would cost manufacturers an extra 90 million euros this year. That would be a 90 million for those who buy a new PC, you the user. Whether you (privately) copy or not. After years the prices for PCs will be rising again, in Germany.
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German Copyright draft (PDF, German)

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