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Europe to axe digital kit copyright taxes

Cheaper MP3 players, phones, set-top boxes for all?

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Digital music devices are set to become cheaper in Europe if the European Commission has its way. It wants to abolish levies member states' governments add to prices to compensate artists and musicians for copyright infringement.

According to an EC report, a copy of which made its way to the Financial Times, the EC wants levies dropped from devices that incorporate copy-protection technologies and those that could be used to infringe copyright but generally aren't.

Its plan is essentially a rationalisation of the rules, many of them introduced in the pre-digital era, to bring them up to date. The EC also wants the rules to be consistent across member states. Currently, not all countries apply levies to devices and media - the UK doesn't, for example, though France and Germany do.

Gadgets like MP3 players should become cheaper because they support anti-piracy technology. The downside is that there's a pressure here on vendors to support only media formats that incorporate DRM, but there's no indication yet the EC's plan is to use levies to drive DRM-only product. Indeed, the report says organisations wanting to impose a levy on a product category should be obliged to show first that the device will be used illicitly.

The FT said EC sources suggest formal recommendations derived from the report could be issued late this year or early 2007. ®

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