Friday, February 15, 2008

BPN 1009 EU consultation on copyright levies

Charlie McCreevy, the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, is re-launching a consultation process on copyright levies. These are the levies which are applied in 24 Member States to compensate rights holders from losses accruing due to private copying of protected works.

This move is interesting as Mr McCreevy suspended work on this issue over a year ago since it was clear there was no hope at the time of finding a common way forward. But with the passage of time he believes it should be possible for all stakeholders to come to this debate with an open and constructive attitude.

In re-launching this discussion he made clear that it is not the intention to question the entitlement of rights holders to receive compensation for losses due to private copying. This is enshrined in Community law and Mr McCreevy has no intention of proposing a change to this legislation.

Member States are given the right to set how compensation for private copying is applied in their territory. In most Member States, this compensation is raised through the imposition of levies on items such as printers, hard disks, MP3 players, blank CDs, mobile phones etc. There is little coherence between Member States as to how they apply these levies, or the level of the levies.

He anticipates as a result from this consultation process ideas and a willingness to relate the level of levies to the loss suffered through private copying.

McCreevy illustrates the present situation in Europe with a few examples: a computer printer in one Member State has a levy of EUR70 imposed on it. Levies on a 4 gigabyte MP3 player, for example, range from zero in one Member State to over EUR15.00 in another. What should be the correct level to compensate for the loss due to private copying? McCreevey wants all stakeholders to come to this discussion with a willingness to find workable solutions.

Following the consultation period which will end on 18 April, McCreevey intends to hold a public meeting in June to see if common ground can be found among all stakeholders.

It must be a coincidence, as the Dutch financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad (FD) published a large article on copyright and especially the transparency in the payments of copyright levies. Is the action of Commissioner McCreevy focussed on the differences between type of levies and the heights of the levies, the FD article showed the range of Dutch collecting societies. At least 16 collecting societies are active in the Netherlands, collecting money from companies or intermediaries:

Organisation/Revenues*/Paid out*
Buma: 120,0/98,6
Stemra: 48,4/53,5
Sena: 48,2/45,1
Reprorecht: 22,3/13,2
De Thuiskopie: 19,9/n.a.
Videma: 5,2/5,4
Norma: 3,4/4,8
PRO: n.a./10,7
* Totals in million euro during 2006

Other collecting societies: Nieuwswaarde, Leenrecht, Lira, Musicopy, Pictoright, Irda, Vevam/Sekam/Sekam Video, Ibva.

The Dutch Public Broadcast company paid in 2006 almost 21 million euro a year for copyright on music and video. The cable operators, united in the association NLKabel pays some tens of millions euro a year.

Blog Posting Number: 1009

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