In the attempt of the European Commission to harmonize a single market for Intellectual Property Rights, António Vitorino, a former European Commissioner responsible for Justice and Home Affairs, has launched a mediation process on private copying and reprography levies in the European Union. In this statement, the mediator recommends two courses of action:
- To promote licensing and commercial agreements in order to guarantee that the creative efforts and the investments made by the copyright’s owners are duly reimbursed and compensated. Consequently by implementing new business models, private copies that are made by the end users for private purposes within the context of a service that has been licensed , will not produce to the copyright owners any damage that would require any additional fees.
- To adopt measures for the harmonization of the different national collection systems existing in the European Union so as to improve the functioning of the compensation systems and ensuring the free movement of goods and services.
As far as this last recommendation is concerned, the mediator suggests that levies should be collected in cross-border transactions in the Member State in which the final customer resides; levies should be made visible for the final consumer being this able to know which part of the final price corresponds to levies. In addition to this, it is also recommended that the liability for paying levies should be shifted from the manufacturer's or importer's level to the retailer's level while simplifying the levy tariff system and obliging manufacturers and importers to inform collecting societies about their transactions concerning goods subject to a levy or alternatively, clear and predictable ex ante exemption schemes should be established.
Therefore, in these recommendations Mr. Antonio Vitorino only foresees a system where the obligation to pay the levy is limited to those devices for the storage and reproduction of contents.
However, in Spain by the end of the year 2011 the existent copyright levy was amended. The former one was applied to all storage and reproduction devices subject to be protected by copyright whereas the current one consists in a compensation at the end of the year through an asset foreseen in the General State Budget.
According to the Spanish Government, this system is transitory until the European Union clarifies this matter. Consequently, nowadays and as long as the current system is not amended, all Spanish citizens must pay for the harm the private copy may cause in the right holders regardless of whether or not they buy this kind of devices. This regulation has produced a significant decrease in the collected amount from 115 million euro in 2011 to only 5 million in 2012.
These conclusions confirm the demands of the Spanish Copyright Collecting Societies who have tried, during this last year, that the Government amends the collecting system for private copy as being in clear contradiction with the Community Directive. They have even brought the corresponding actions before the European authorities.