By Joe McNamee

After being delayed from December to January and from January to February, the incoherent, inaccurate, incomprehensible, contradictory “Castex Report” (PDF) on private copying levies was finally adopted by the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament last week. Next week**, the European Parliament has the choice to accept the deeply flawed text adopted by the Legal Affairs Committee or to adopt a balanced, thorough, coherent and fair alternative Resolution proposed by the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) political group, or to reject both texts.

The text adopted by the Legal Affairs Committee remains as weak as Castex’ initial draft. It makes numerous assertions that are quite simply and demonstrably false. For example, it argues that “there is currently no alternative approach in this area that would ensure appropriate remuneration for the rightholder and at the same time make private copying possible.” This means that the making of private copies in the UK and Ireland (that do not have levies) is impossible. Except… making private copies in the UK and Ireland (both of which have vibrant, profitable cultural industries) is possible. Such private copying is theoretically (and absurdly) illegal – but unquestionably possible.

The text adopted by the Legal Affairs Committee maintains the caricature-like torturing of statistics to prove what cannot be proven. For example, the report (voted for by citizens’ representatives) neatly avoids mention of how much the levies cost to citizens, but points out instead that:

“whereas these levies only constitute a minute proportion of the turnover – estimated to total more than EUR 1 000 billion – of manufacturers and importers of traditional and digital recording media and material; ”

By contrast that the total collected “now stands at over EUR 600 million, and […] represents a considerable amount for the artists ”. However, the text also says that the cultural sector represents 5 million jobs – which means that levies contribute 33 Eurocents per day per job in the cultural sector. Either the reference to 5 million jobs is entirely irrelevant and was included for the purpose of misleading the reader… or the minuscule value of levies per job in the cultural sector makes it clear that the whole expensive, uneconomical, chaotic bureaucracy behind the levies system is quite clearly unjustifiable.

By contrast, the ALDE text avoids misrepresenting statistics, it has a logical and coherent structure, it raises the questions that should to be asked and is a constructive addition to the debate which is necessary, in order to permit the reforms that are urgently needed. While we would question the value of some of the points raised by ALDE, the whole approach is sober and  thorough. Faced with a huge, complex, costly problem that undermines the European single market, to the detriment of the entire population and the economy, calm reflection and not hysteria is what is needed. This calm reflection is what ALDE is seeking to deliver.

The text adopted by the Legal Affairs Committee maintains the caricature-like torturing of statistics to prove what cannot be proven.

The question is now… will the European Parliament vote for an incoherent text which will move the debate around levies backwards – or will it vote for a text which will be a positive contribution to reforming the expensive, bureaucratic chaos that we currently face?

** For unclear reasons, the European Parliament’s published agenda still does not make it clear that the vote will take place next week. However, the most reliable information that we have is that the vote is planned.