German Clash Over Levy On Copying Devices

August 2004

Record Labels, Music Publishers, Technology, Internet

A long-running feud in Germany over imposing a levy on computers and printers has returned to the headlines after a government minister suggested extending the levy to all devices capable of duplicating copyright-protected material. In a weekend interview with the Süddeutsche newspaper, German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said the government may broaden its copyright law to include a levy on all devices capable of copying and not just copy machines, scanners and CD burners. Currently, Germany imposes a levy only on devices specifically designed for copying, according to Zypries; in the future, she said, all devices that can be used to copy copyright-protected material should be subject to a fee, with the amount determined by usage. Germany is one of several European countries that for decades has been collecting special copyright fees on the sale of analogue copying devices such as blank audio and video cassettes, and more recently, digital CD players. The fees are intended to compensate rights holders for lost royalties from private copying of music, images and movies: attempts by the German rights society, VG Wort, to extend the same levy to computers and printers have met strong resistance by manufacturers, including Fujitsu and Siemens Computers, Germany’s largest computer manufacturer; the matter is now with the State Court in Munich.
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