Thursday 21 October 2010

Spanish private copying levy case: some early responses

It all adds up ...
The IPKat has already posted on today's ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Case C‑467/08, Padawan SL v Sociedad General de Autores y Editores de España (SGAE), which ruled that indiscriminate copyright levies fall foul of harmonised European Union rules under the InfoSoc Directice (2001/29).  This post draws the attention to some of the early comments on it.

Arstechnica's "Europe smacks "indiscriminate" copyright levies on blank CDs, DVDs" (by Nate Anderson) explains the problem as follows:
"Spain allows its citizens to make private copies of copyrighted works—but it compensates creators for the economic harm of this practice by laying down a levy on digital media and devices. If you purchase blank CDs or DVDs, or if you buy DVD burners or possibly even an MP3 player, you have to pay up. But what if "you" aren't a person at all? Imagine a nonprofit that needs to back up its donor records, or a business that wants to burn its own promotional CDs, or a government agency that buys some computers with DVD burners built in. They won't be churning out Bob Dylan CD mixes, so how can it be fair to make them pay the levy?"
The author adds:
"This raises an obvious question: how do you know if blank media or burners will be used for private copying or not? The court laid down a distinction. When sold to "natural persons for private purposes," the country can assume that private copying will take place and impose the levy. But when sold to businesses or other non-natural persons, they can't; no levy is allowed.

The decision would appear to have little impact on consumers, though it does mean that business who sell such digital media and devices won't have to pay levies on every item they sell. The distinction the court makes here seems a sane one, though true fairness would obviously mean that the levy is only paid on each piece of media or device actually used for private copying".
English-language Basque website EITB's feature, "Europe rules Spanish digital copyright tax 'illegal'", carries only a short summary but reminds readers it's still for the Provincial Court of Barcelona to determine whether the Spanish levy (or 'canon') is "imposed indiscriminately".

From Hollywood Reporter comes "Spain's Tax for Purchasing Equipment to Record Digital Content Ruled Illegal" by Pamela Rolfe. This piece goes into detail as to the actual sums levied and lists the recording devices which the levy covered: these include mobile phones as well as more conventional hardware.  Rolfe observes that last year the levy pulled in a handsome 100 millions euros for collecting societies, of which SGAE received 26%,

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