Microsoft and pals applaud UK's 'Google Review' copyright move

Colour us shocked: They want rest of Europe to follow

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The rest of Europe should follow the UK’s example and get rid of copyright levies, says an EU trade group representing Microsoft, Apple, Samsung and thousands of others.

Earlier this week, the House of Lords approved a new law which introduces a narrow private copying exception allowing consumers to make digital copies of their music and other content freely.

The so-called “Google Review” law on copyright “aims to support reasonable use of copyright materials by law abiding people,” according to Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the conservative member of the House of Lords who oversaw the review. “To accommodate the explosion in digital use people will be able to copy the content they own onto any device they own as well as to private cloud storage,” she said.

All EU states are bound by the 2001 EU Copyright Directive, although it is currently under review with a view to being overhauled for the Digital Age.

The directive requires compensation to be paid to rights-holders when people copy songs, movies or other content from one personal storage device or player to another.

Most of Europe does this by imposing levies on equipment that allows such copying - you’ll pay €15 more for a MP3 player in France to cover this cost according to the Baroness. But the directive does not stipulate how compensation should be funded or distributed.

DigitalEurope, which represents more than 10,000 tech companies, says the levy approach is out of touch with the reality of the digital world and consumer expectations.

All EU countries should eliminate the “obsolete and unfair system of hardware levies,” said DigitalEurope Director General, John Higgins, in response to the Lords decision. “This exemplary legislation which sets the benchmark for Europe in the future,” he said.

The group has recently written to the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier urging him to re-consider the levy system as he overhauls Europe’s entire copyright legislation. Despite pressure from the tech industry, digital rights activists and NGOs, Barnier is seen as reluctant to make any move that could be considered “anti-culture”.

Meanwhile, authors' rights and Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) are lobbying heavily in favour of levies. In a recent European Commission consultation, CMOs, authors and performers argued that the application of levies does not affect prices of levied products.

“Rightholders believe that there is no demonstrable negative impact of private copying and reprography exceptions on new online business models and they consider it necessary to assess whether some of those services should not be subject to levies,” said a Commission review of the consultation. ®

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