Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dutch parliamentary hearings in copyright (4)

4. Publishers unfairly claim copyright (copyfraud)
It is not uncommon that works in the public domain are offered, provided with a copyright claim by a publishers. Due to the complexity of the Copyright Act, citizens can waive their rights to use their rights. Typical examples are reprints of classic books or reproductions of art works. It is neither uncommon that publishers attempt to stretch the reach of copyright. With digital products publishers disregard the depletion doctrine and even state that resale is forbidden.
Proposal: make the right of public domain works a positive right and make unfair claiming of copyright on public domain works liable to punishment in the same manner as infringement on copyright is. Let every member of the public have the right to request termination of infringement on public domain works.

5. Levies are unworkable and injust
The present practice of collecting levies by the various societies is a disaster and the business should immediately be transferred to an independent state institution under control of the parliament and be inline with public administration rules. The Internal revenue service could be such an institution.
Besides the practice of execution, the system of levies is principally intolerable.
a. There is no just distribution code. Especially the small rights holders, who are not affiliated with the collecting society, suffer as they receive such a small remuneration, that the administration costs will exceed the proceeds. Collectively this group is most probably the largest group and this group should be supported in the framework of cultural diversity. Due to this system the group of small rights holders pays the largest costs. A systematic distribution of the revenues from the levies is hardly possible as the copyright framework is very large; copyright does not only cover pieces of art, but also utterances of minimal originality.
b. It is impossible to conclude to a reasonable criterion for levies. The number of bytes for storage of a work does not say anything about the costs associated with the realisation of the work. Classical music probably costs a manifold of a pop music production and one hour of a TV-quiz will hardly costs compare to the costs of a Hollywood blockbuster, not to mention the costs of a software program. The differences are so great that a reasonable average can not be set.
c. Costs of media are reduced exponentially. Every year the costs of a gigabyte of storage halves. This trend is going on for some thirthy years and will not stop. Would a levy on blank media be introduced on the basis of storage, the Dutch economy would be outclassed by an economy not charging levies. An example is the writable DVD, of which the levy is higher than the production price; so people buy them in countries not charging a levy or illegal imports.
d. Levies are extremely impopular. In fact levies are seen as legal theft by many. Under the present outdated system artists would have a right to a remuneration on every new copy. Especially music companies like to use criminal law to persecute every illegal copy.
e. Levies are arbitrarily determined and maintained. There is a levy on CDs and DVDs, but not on harddiscs and mp3-players. There is no technical reason to put a lower levy on DVD+R media than on DVD-media (the developer of DVD+R, Philips, is part of the organisation setting the levies in the Netherlands). Dutch consumer order DVD without a levy in Germany.
f. Levy systems are erroneously defended as less bad solution. DRM systems have been seen as means for enforcement of copyright. Yet DRM systems have been cancelled for many reasons. This should not lead to the conclusion that levies should be introduced on a large scale. There are other opportunities (like merchandising).
Conclusion: Levies cover only a very small part of the copyright market and are extremely unjust. Such a blunt means for rights holders can not be justified.
Proposal: abolish the whole system of levies immediately.

Blog Post Number: 989

Tags: copyright, blank media levy

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