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EDRi analysis on private copying levy

5 June, 2013

The debate on the private copying levy that is imposed in some EU Member States has been carried out for years and yet no solution has been found yet. The issue is also part of the wider discussion on copyright, its adaptation to the digital age and its legitimacy in the eyes of the citizen.

The private copying levy is a surcharge on the price of media and devices capable of making copies and is supposed to be redistributed to rights holders to compensate for the alleged harm suffered as a result of copies made under the private copy exception to copyright.

The money collected in some Member States is also partly used to finance socio-cultural projects. Yet, although it is important that artists and creators get paid for their creativity, the levy has created many barriers to the achievement of a single market and has served to discredit current legislation in the eyes of citizens. Its implementation and consequences are debatable.

A conflation between private copying levies and a payment for any unauthorised use would have an adverse effect on the credibility of this levy reform, for two main reasons: first, it is impossible to justify that consumers who only make authorised copies or copies subject to exceptions should be penalised. Second, the payment of this levy would not make illegal activity legal, meaning that the consumer would pay but get absolutely nothing in return.

It is difficult to find a coherent solution if the scope of the private copying levy enforcement is not consistent within the European Union. It is difficult to justify the existence of a private copying levy when some media legally prohibit any copying through digital rights management. The harmonisation of the private copying levy system is impossible without taking into account the harmonisation of copyright and its exceptions. Furthermore, social changes, changes in the use of content over recent years must be considered and the approach should be able to be adapted to future technological developments.

In January 2013, Mr Antonio Vitorino, former Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Portugal as well as a former European Commissioner responsible for Justice and Home Affairs, presented his recommendations to the European Parliament on the issue.

The report emphasises the value of licensed digital services, recommending an exemption for such products in order not to cause harm to consumers by forcing them to pay both a levy and a licence, as it presently occurs. This would stimulate the introduction of new business models in the digital sector. Mr Vitorino proposes to charge the levy to the final retailer and not the manufacturer, as it is currently the case in some European countries, to avoid double payment of the levy.

Although a very good step forward, Mr Vitorino’s recommendations provide only short and medium term measures and offer no solution in the long term.

Mr Vitorino’s recommendations are being discussed in the European Parliament and were also a subject of the meeting of the Competitiveness Council on 27 May 2013.

EDRi: Private Copying Levy: EDRi's analysis (28.05.2013)

EDRi: Private Copying Levy: EDRi's analysis (28.05.2013)

Recommendations resulting from the mediation on private copy and reprography levies (31.01.2013)



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