(CN) – Businesses do not have to pay a private copying fee for CDs, MP3 players and other copy-enabling media, Europe’s highest court ruled. The court said such fees are aimed at individuals, not companies.
Some, but not all, European Union countries impose such private copying levies, leading to a wide range of prices for similar products across the EU.
Spain imposes a levy on producers of digital copying equipment, devices and media. These fees are paid in a lump sum to property rights management societies, which then disburse them to copyright holders.
One society, the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, claimed that Padawan S.L., a Spanish maker of CDs and DVDs, owed it about $21,000 for private-use copying between 2002 and 2004.
Padawan refused to pay, and a Barcelona court asked the EU’s Court of Justice to rule on the issue.
The Luxembourg-based court acknowledged the difficulties in identifying and tracking down individuals who use such media to copy protected works.
The court ruled that member states should, in principle, be allowed to assess a private copying levy and pass it on to the consumer. And the court agreed with Advocate General Verica Trstenjak, who opined last May that a proper levy must establish a link between use of the copyright and the financial compensation.
The court said EU members can impose the fee on individuals, who use copy-enabling media to make private copies.
But it’s not fair to indiscriminately apply this fee to businesses as well, the court ruled. Companies buying digital media or devices might not use them to make private copies and should therefore be exempt from the fee, the Court of Justice concluded.