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Japan to tax MP3 players

Price hike to compensate copyright holders

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MP3 players and DVRs could soon become more expensive in Japan, if the country’s government successfully introduces a levy on sales of these devices.

According to a report in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs wants to force MP3 player manufacturers to pay a royalty charge to copyright holders that may have lost out as a result of illegally recorded content.

An official tariff hasn’t been set yet, but it’s rumoured that manufacturers may be forced to pay several hundred yen per device – a cost that will no doubt be passed onto the consumer.

Since 1993, the Japanese government has placed a duty on devices and media capable of recording music, such as mini-disc machines and cassette players. This charge is usually several per cent of such a device’s retail cost.

The levy doesn’t cover digital media payers, which contain their own storage. Back in 2005, the Japanese government tried to extend the law to cover these devices, but it failed to do so.

The 1993 tax raises about ¥3bn ($28.4m/£14.5m/€18.4m) collectively each year, which is paid to the Society for the Administration of Remuneration for Audio Home Recording, which then distributes it among copyright holders.

If the Japanese government is successful, it will encourage the UK's Music Business Group, which is seeking to persuade the British government to do the same. The MBG wants consumers to meet the cost of musicians left out of pocket through illegal music downloads, and has proposed a levy on digital music players.

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