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Saturday, January 22, 2005
German PC copyright levy under fire

A recent German court decision seeking to extend copyright levies to PCs and printers has sparked a storm of controversy among European manufactures which have promised to appeal against the decision.

European IT and consumer electronics trade association EICTA vowed yesterday that it will fight the Munich district court ruling that PC maker Fujitsu Siemens must pay a levy of ?12 for every PC it sells in Germany.

EICTA also warned that another test case in a Stuttgart court singles out printers by defining them as "copy-making" devices and therefore liable to levies. It condemned the ruling as setting "a negative precedent for the entire European technology market".

"Both decisions are disproportionate and do not follow the provisions of the EU Copyright Directive," said Lizanne Scott, member of the EICTA executive board, and director for government and public affairs at HP in EMEA.

"The German courts have erected new barriers to the European single market, and the decisions run contrary to the Lisbon Agenda of strengthening Europe's industrial competitiveness.

"We cannot understand how a member state of the EU with one of the largest technology markets can arbitrarily decide to place levies on the tools needed to build the European knowledge economy."

EICTA went on the question whether German law allows for the imposition of copyright levies on PCs and printers, claiming that a new levy on printers is "totally unreasonable".

"People simply do not buy a printer with the aim of making countless copies of a copy-protected work. The decision is certain to be appealed," said Scott.

German technology trade association Bitkom expects that PC manufacturers will be made to pay an extra ?90m from 2005.

Given the retroactive nature of the decision, Bitkom warned that the industry could see a ?300m burden added on top for the period 2001-2004.

The trade association also estimated that printer manufacturers will be made to pay an extra ?116m solely for printers sold in Germany in 2002 based on a levy of ?20 per printer.

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