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Dutch justice minister Hirsch Ballin has rejected calls for a copyright tax on USB Flash drives.

The tax was proposed by Dutch industry group SONT, which two years ago also wanted to levy a tax for iPods and other MP3 players to compensate music artists for revenue lost to private copying. That proposal was also shelved by Hirsch Ballin after a strong lobby by several trade associations.

The Netherlands's largest consumer organisation Consumentenbond called the proposal for a levy of USB sticks "bizarre" as most USB keys are used to store images and documents. Originally, SONT wanted a €0.05 levy per USB key, but it also mooted a levy based on actual storage capacity. Electronics manufacturers immediately rallied against such a tax. On Monday, MP Kees Vendrik of the Dutch Green Party even called for a parliament debate.

Stichting Thuiskopie, the Dutch performance rights collecting agency, is not happy with the rejection, calling it "premature".

"There was no final proposal," its director Andre Beemsterboer emphasised. However, his organisation believes a levy is imminent, as 20-25 per cent of USB keys sold are used for music storage, it believes.

To date, few countries have proposed a music levy on flash drives. Canada's Private Copyright Collective (CPCC) is once again trying to find a way to force would-be iPod buyers to pay a copyright tax despite being told in 2004 such a levy is illegal. However, USB keys seem off the list.

The tax was proposed by Dutch industry group SONT, which two years ago also wanted to levy a tax for iPods and other MP3 players to compensate music artists for revenue lost to private copying. That proposal was also shelved by Hirsch Ballin after a strong lobby by several trade associations.

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