Brian Miller Solicitor's IP Law Blog

Friday, 20 April 2012

European Court of Justice Rules Private Copying Levy Permitted Under EU Copyright Law For Consumers

(originally posted on October 24, 2010)

The European Court of Justice has ruled that the private copying levies on blank CDs, MP3 players and other digital media are permitted under EU copyright law in respect of goods sold to consumers, but not for any products which a company may buy.

The position currently in Europe is that some European countries permit the a person who legitimately owns a copyright work to make a copy of it, as long as it is for private use. The new European Copyright Directive will continue to allow this, as long as there is ‘fair compensation’ for the copyright holders.

In those countries where private copying is permitted, the way it works is that a levy is charged on the media – discs, media players – that material is typically copied on to, in order to ensure fair compensation. That levy is then sent to collection societies for distribution to rights holders.

As it can reasonably be assumed that any blank media purchased by a consumer will be used for copying, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that this levy is compatible with EU copyright law when charged on goods sold to consumers. It has also directed that the levy should not be charged when items are sold to businesses, because that assumption cannot be made.

The ruling is largely in line with an opinion published earlier this year by one of the ECJ’s Advocates General. The European Commission said last year that it wanted to end the situation where private copying was legal in some EU countries and not in others. The Commission said in a statement that it wanted to give “consumers certainty about what they can and cannot do with copyrighted songs, videos and films they download, by ending the current fragmentation of laws on ‘private copying’“.

© Brian Miller 2012. This article may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author.

This article reflects the current law and practice. It is general in nature, and does not purport in any way to be comprehensive or a substitute for specialist legal advice in individual circumstances.

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