Friday, May 13, 2005

German Court Confirms Printer Levy

Wednesday a German Court of Appeals in Stuttgart upheld a lower court decision that printers could be defined as copy-making devices and therefore the levy regime would apply on them. As I wrote in January this outcome would be likely under (upcoming) German copyright law.

In the framework of this lawsuit between Hewlett-Packard and collecting society Wort the arbitration commission of the German Patent and Trademark Office had suggested in 2004 to collect levies up to 70 euro for every printer sold in Germany since 2001. Apparently the proposed amounts to be collected now vary between 10 and 300 euro. The German IT industry fears substantial negative economic effects and even some chill on innovation.

The German printer levy is (still) unique in Europe. Germany also had another first: the PC levy. Levies and their applicability on digital storage devices are increasingly discussed lately. The European Copyright Directive seeks to phase out levies for DRM, which recently was pretty much confirmed by the head of the European Commission's Copyright Unit. DRM may be the envisioned death of levies, but I still wonder if this is more than some last convulsion.
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Related French Go Dutch: Levies for the Gigabyte
Thru Urheberrecht [German]


Anonymous Branko Collin said...

EU directives presumably exist to "harmonize" current practice, not to turn the will of the EC into law. If more and more EU member states introduce levies, or if more and more items are subject to levies, it would seem strange that the EU actively seeks to phase them out.

14/5/05 03:21  
Blogger Rik Lambers said...

Harmonization efforst don't exclude implementation (efforts) of "new" provisions/policy efforts. That is new to some, or the majority of the Member States.

The European Copyright Directive's "phase out" provision is article 5(2)(b) EUCD, which proscribes that for the time levies and DRM solutions co-exist the ‘application or non-application of technological measures’ has to be taken into account when calculating ‘fair compensation’ for acts of private copying.

The Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the initial proposal for the EUCD stated that:

‘It is expected that digital technology may allow the effective control of private copying, and the replacement of levy schemes by individual licensing solutions which are under development (in the context of “electronic copyright management”), at least in the on-line environment.’ (p.37)

For a background on this phase out
Id' recommend a paper by Hugenholtz and others: availabele here [PDF], specifically pp. 42+
Also see the EC Copyright Unit's Head comments I refer to in the post.

That collective rights organisations still seek to expand the application of levies is something else. They may want to enforce interests that are not in line with EU policy. The EUCD itself seeks a gradual phase out, leaving room for the co-existence of levies and DRM, for the moment.

14/5/05 13:35  

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