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Finland ditches copyright levy on digital kit, pays artists directly

Result? Industry happy, collecting societies fuming

Finland has decided to ditch copyright levies on digital devices... and let the taxpayer foot the bill.

Instead a special government fund will be set up to compensate artists for private copying of music and movies.

Following the national Parliament vote, Finnish MEP Henna Virkkunen said the new system would be “fairer to consumers and better better for artists because they will get more compensation this way”. Even Veronique Desbrosses, general manager of GESAC, which represents authors’ rights, agreed that increased compensation for artists was a positive element, saying “private copying compensation is part of the ecosystem and is essential”.

Meanwhile, speaking at a meeting of tech industry in Brussels on Thursday, Swedish liberal MEP Cecilia Wikstrom said the entire EU copyright system needs to be overhauled. “How would Abba suffer from me making a private copy of my CD so I can listen to it on my mp3 player while I’m jogging? The debate about copyright levies has deliberately been muddled to convince us (lawmakers) to perpetuate an absurd system,” she said.

The new European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker has vowed that copyright will be one of the issues he will tackle in his new role. Most EU countries, with the exception of the UK and Ireland, operate a similar scheme, however two years ago Spain dumped its law and set up a government compensation fund similar to the one adopted in Finland this week.

Desbrosses was scathing of this plan to get rid of the levy system. “There should be a link between who should pay and who should benefit. Putting remuneration in the hands of the state, is not a good idea because it is not linked to use or market behaviour,” she said.

She added that times change, and if the state budget declines, so too may artists’ remuneration. Desbrosses also took aim at device manufacturers, saying that even if they don’t have to pay the levy, they will not pass that saving on to consumers. “Even if you have remuneration for private copying, the consumer is not gaining anything we saw this in Spain. Manufacturers and importers are the only ones who gain.”

John Higgins, head of DigitalEurope – which represents companies including Apple, Bose and Canon – said it was “unfortunate that countries feel the need to push ahead on their own. EU-wide rules should be steering member states towards this sort of reform”. ®


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