EU to Impose Copyright Tax on Printers

On June 27, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that European countries can tax printer and computer companies to compensate copyright holders for the illegal copying by consumers. The judgment follows a case in the German Court of Justice (GCJ), in which German copyright administrator VG Wort sued Canon, Epson, Fujitsu, HP, Kyocera and Xerox, demanding compensation for the printing of his published works on their equipment. GCJ requested the ECJ provide a clarification in the case on points of EU law.

“It is open to the member state concerned to make the actual level of compensation owed to rightholders dependent on whether or not such technological measures are applied, so that those rightholders are encouraged to make use of them and thereby voluntarily contribute to the proper application of the private copying exception,” reads the judgment.

For difficulties associated with the EU’s system of pre-emptively compensating copyright holders for potential infringement, the court said manufacturers could pass the added costs on to their customers. “Member states are free, given the practical difficulties encountered, to put in place, where appropriate, a levy chargeable to the persons in possession of the equipment on which the reproduction has been made,” the justices wrote.

“Where the reproductions at issue have been made by means of a single process, with the use of a chain of devices, it is likewise open to the member states to go back to the stages before the copying stage and put in place, where appropriate, a system in which fair compensation is paid by the persons in possession of a device forming part of that chain which contributes to that process in a non-autonomous manner, in so far as those persons have the possibility of passing on the cost of the levy to their customers. Nevertheless, the overall amount of fair compensation owed as recompense for the harm suffered by the rightholders at the end of that single process must not be substantially different from the amount fixed for a reproduction obtained by means of a single device.”

“In those circumstances, the fundamental right to equal treatment of all interested parties is respected,” the court concluded.

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