Could we be edging closer to a Europe-wide 'iPod tax'?

Could we be edging closer to a Europe-wide 'iPod tax'?Consumer electronics companies including Apple, Nokia and Sony, maybe softening their stance against a Europe-wide copyright levy on “the sale of products that can be used to copy music, books, films and other protected content”, reports the Financial Times.

Currently 22 out of 27 European countries already enforce the so-called ‘iPod tax’, at greatly varying levels, on products ranging from digital music players, printers, mobile phones and even blank CDs. Notably, the UK doesn’t currently enforce any kind of copyright levy. The charges are designed to compensate for the losses copyright owners may face from “private copying” of works.

Also see: Will 2008 be the year of the music tax?

Despite traditionally apposing such charges, often through legal action, on the basis that they force European consumers to pay over the odds for goods, device makers have indicated in a letter to the European Commission that they are willing to “explore new ways forward”. Technology companies may agree to a levy, according to the FT, as long as it is harmonized across the whole of Europe. The European Commission’s internal market and services directorate is hosting a public hearing on the topic today.

Guaranteed revenue streams

The European-style ‘iPod tax’ is just one of a number of attempts by copyright holders, in particular the music industry, to establish a guaranteed revenue stream in the face of dwindling sales which are being blamed on piracy. Last September we reported that Universal was touting its Total Music scheme in which customers of ISPs and cellphone carriers would be charged a flat-rate fee as part of their data service plan, in exchange for the right to download and share the label’s music over the network. More recently, Warner Music is said to be pushing a similar idea.

However, Europe’s copyright levy differs in once crucial aspect. It doesn’t appear to offer immunity in regards to Internet filesharing but is designed to compensate for “private copying” only, the definition of which is unclear. Private copying may simply be another name for placeshifting of content, such as ripping a CD you already own to the MP3 format for transfer to an iPod, which in our eyes should already be covered by fair use.

What do you think of the so-called ‘iPod tax’ and, more generally, would you be willing to pay a flat-rate fee in return for immunity against music filesharing?

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last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

2 Responses to “Could we be edging closer to a Europe-wide 'iPod tax'?”

  1. Khurt says:

    If the socalled “iPod tax” gave me inexchange the right to copy ( personal use ) music from my frieds collection then I have no issue. But if all it does is make me pay because I have an iPod then HECK NO. All of my current content is legally purchased and I don’t share.

  2. “Private Copy” is defined as the concept introduced in 9.2 of the BERN convention ( http://law-ref.org/BERN/article9.html ):

    “It shall be a matter for legislation in the countries of the Union to permit the reproduction of such works in certain special cases, provided that such reproduction does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.”

    From this the various countries defined private copy as being “reproduction of copyrighted works in the cases where such reproduction does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.”

    The most used case of an example is “if I buy a CD I have the private right to make copies of it, if they’re to be used privately and there’s no commercial exploitation of those copies”. Oh, and if you look carefully, most of the entities that replied to EU’s questionaire are more or less explicitly advocating the end of that right.