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?