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Fujitsu Siemens loses German PC levy case

€12 a pop

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A German court has ordered PC maker Fujitsu Siemens to pay a royalty of €12 for every PC it sells in Germany. A Munich district court believes that as with blank media such as audio and video cassettes, the levy should compensate rights holders for lost royalties.

The suit was first brought in 2001 by VG Wort rights society, a copyright management organisation. It argued that Fujitsu Siemens hardware can be used for copying - and therefore infringes the rights of its members. Fujitsu Siemens is the first company targeted by the society. More PC vendors may follow later this year.

Although a landmark decision, the ruling isn't a full victory for VG Wort, which originally sought a levy of € 30 for each new PC sold.

More importantly, the judgment is highly controversial, as VG Wort represents creators of written content and not the recording industry, which loses millions of dollars a year to piracy.

The levy formally doesn't even compensate right holders for illegal copying, but for the amount of Fair Use copying that is already legal under German law. Some argue that if charges are levied on computers, there should be a similar fee on all printers, copiers and scanners, since using one of those may also be practicing fair use.

Fujitsu Siemens is considering appealing. It believes the tax will have a negative impact on sales to consumers. ®

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