Friday 17 June 2011

Thuiskopie, Opus and the private copying levy: what next?

Yesterday the Court of Justice of the European Union gave judgment in Case C-462/09 Stichting de Thuiskopie v Opus Supplies Deutschland GmbH, Mijndert van der Lee and Hananja van der Lee, a reference for a preliminary ruling from the Hoge Raad der Nederlanden (the Dutch Supreme Court).  This reference turned on Article 16c(1) of the Dutch copyright law, which provided an exception to copyright in favour of copying for private use. Article 16(2) additionally provides that a maker or importer of an item used for reproduction must pay a private copying levy. Stichting de Thuiskopie is the Dutch body responsible for recovering the private copying levy; Opus, a company based in Germany, sells blank media online via Dutch-language websites that target Netherlands consumers. Opus traded on terms that, where a Dutch consumer placed an order online, that order was processed in Germany and the goods were delivered from Germany to the Netherlands, on behalf of and in the name of the customer, by a carrierg engaged by Opus.

Opus paid no private copying levy in respect of the media delivered to its customers in the Netherlands, either in that Member State or in Germany; the cost of the reproduction media sold by Opus did not therefore include any element corresponding to the private copying levy.

Arguing that Opus had to be regarded as the ‘importer’ and, consequently, responsible for paying the private copying levy, the Stichting sued for payment of that levy. Opus denied liability, saying it couldn't be classified as an importer into the Netherlands of the reproduction media which it sold and that it was individual Dutch consumers who must be classified as importers. The trial court and first appellate court agreed with Opus, following which the Stichting appealed to the Hoge Raad. That court referred the following questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:
‘(1) Does [the InfoSoc] Directive [2001/29], in particular Article 5(2)(b) and (5) thereof,  provide any assistance in determining who should be regarded under national law as owing the “fair compensation” referred to in Article 5(2)(b)? If so, what assistance does it provide? 
(2) In a case of distance selling in which the buyer is established in a different Member State to that of the seller, does Article 5(5) of Directive [2001/29] require national law to be interpreted so broadly that a person owing the “fair compensation” referred to in Article 5(2)(b) of the directive who is acting on a commercial basis owes such compensation in at least one of the Member States involved in the distance selling?’
The Court ruled today as follows:
"1. Directive 2001/29 ..., in particular Article 5(2)(b) and (5) thereof, must be interpreted as meaning that the final user who carries out, on a private basis, the reproduction of a protected work must, in principle, be regarded as the person responsible for paying the fair compensation provided for in Article 5(2)(b)
However, it is open to the Member States to establish a private copying levy chargeable to the persons who make reproduction equipment, devices and media available to that final user, since they are able to pass on the amount of that levy in the price paid by the final user for that service
2. Directive 2001/29, in particular Article 5(2)(b) and (5) thereof, must be interpreted as meaning that it is for the Member State which has introduced a system of private copying levies chargeable to the manufacturer or importer of media for reproduction of protected works, and on the territory of which the harm caused to authors by the use for private purposes of their work by purchasers who reside there occurs, to ensure that those authors actually receive the fair compensation intended to compensate them for that harm. In that regard, the mere fact that the commercial seller of reproduction equipment, devices and media is established in a Member State other than that in which the purchasers reside has no bearing on that obligation to achieve a certain result. It is for the national court, where it is impossible to ensure recovery of the fair compensation from the purchasers, to interpret national law in order to allow recovery of that compensation from the person responsible for payment who is acting on a commercial basis."
Public comments from the English-speaking rights management and collection sectors are keenly awaited. Meanwhile, the Court's ruling looks like the source of major headaches for national legislatures (how to provide a scheme which ensures that authors actually receive the fair compensation), courts (how to achieve an appropriate means of enforcing local and EU law in respect of payment which may have to be recovered from a supplier which has no place of business in the jurisdiction or indeed anywhere but cyberspace) and authors and bodies collecting for them (how to identify chargeable uses and then to quantify payments).

1 comment:

John R walker said...

I have just received ads for Apples new 'Lion' OS. The ads claim that one of the new features of this new OS is that any Mac can be very easily turned into a server. Also gather that 'AirDrop' will create fully encrypted local peer-to-peer networks over WiFi. I.e local 'Darkwebs' for file sharing.

Control looks unlikely.

Special sales taxes on memory devices,taxes that are then hypothecated to private special interest groups is clumsy , economically counter productive and a very anti-democratic project.
Some of the biggest consumers of memory devices are young creatives, is taxing them a pro-innovation measure?

I also thought that the EU was trying to bring in a flat, uniform rate, simpler, transaction tax regime for the EU ?

Lastly as 'cloud memory' takes of , how can you tax a 'cloud' that is global?