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Vitorino’s recommendations on private copying and reprography levies

Some stakeholders have put forward ideas to replace the current hardware based levy systems with other forms of fair compensation. But, the alternatives that were put forward have not been sufficiently worked out in detail, and therefore do not justify the “phasing out” of hardware based levies in the immediate future. In particular, the link between the persons causing the harm and benefitting from the exception and the persons financing a system of fair compensation should not be severed.

While it may be too early to determine which business models will be preferred by consumers in the long term, many stakeholders expect a shift from ownership based to access based models. The latter, combined with widespread and ubiquitous Internet access, have the potential of significantly decreasing the overall amount of copying undertaken by end users and, as a consequence, also the amount of levies required to compensate for acts of private copying.

Clarifying that copies that are made by end users for private purposes in the context of a service that has been licensed by rightholders do not cause any harm that would require additional remuneration in the form of private copying levies. Levies should be collected in cross-border transactions in the Member State in which the final customer resides.

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. Levies should be made visible for the final customer.

More coherence with regard to the process of setting levies should be ensured by defining harm‘ uniformly across the EU as the value consumers attach to the additional copies in question (lost profit); and providing a procedural framework that would reduce complexity, guarantee objectiveness and ensure the observance of strict time-limits.

Most stakeholders identify a clear tendency towards services that offer a comprehensive package of features to consumers. These features include copying possibilities that go far beyond what would be allowed under the private copying (or any other) exception. They include the use of content on multiple devices, often via synchronisation possibilities.

Many services, notably in the area of music, allow for the making of playlists and the sharing of such playlists with others. Services may also include the offering of “storing and matching services” to ensure access to content libraries by different devices and from any location. It is important to note that the latter services are increasingly access-based, in the sense that copyright protected content is not stored anymore on the customers’ devices but rather centrally in the “cloud”, on server storage space provided by the service operator.

These complex new services have in common that they need to be based on licensing agreements with rightholders, as only very few elements of the service are potentially covered by an exception. The numerous examples of licensed services existing today prove that such licensing agreements are a reality in the market, benefitting consumers, rightholders and service providers alike.