By EDRi

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)
http://edri.org/positioncopylevy

EDRi: Private Copying Levy: EDRi’s analysis (28.05.2013)
http://edri.org/files/privatecopyinglevies.pdf

Recommendations resulting from the mediation on private copy and
reprography levies (31.01.2013)
http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/copyright/docs/levy_reform/130131_levies-vitorino-recommendations_en.pdf