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Tech vendors turn to Brussels as copyright levy talks fold

Hidden agenda? Surely not

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A group of consumer electronics giants have called time on efforts to bring some coordination to Europe's mosaic of national copyright levies and will target action from Brussels.

The FT reports that Apple, HP, Sony and friends have been speaking to the organisations behind collection schemes in 22 European countries in an effort to bring some kind of standardisation to schemes that date from the days of the pianola and beyond.

Digital products can attract a range of different levies in different countries, all designed to compensate artists for content piracy which is seen as inevitable. The total bill amounts to over €2bn.

However, after 18 months, the manufacturers trade group DigitalEurope has thrown up its hands and halted the talks.

The FT quotes the organisation's director general, Bridget Cosgrave, as saying it was "bitterly disappointed" that the year and a half of talks has ultimately been futile.

On the other hand, the umbrella body for the collecting societies, Gesac, reckoned the talks had made "considerable progress".

It speculated that the vendors might have "a hidden agenda" and be hoping to get a better deal via action from Brussels.

This could well be true - even if it had struck a deal, it would still have been working with a hornets' nest of organisations, each keen to ensure its existence.

The downside of turning to Brussels is that getting anything to happen there takes ages, and the Commissioners have a nasty habit of having their own agendas which may diverge somewhat from those of Silicon Valley or Tokyo. ®

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