Germany proposes copyright levy on PCs

A German patent office mediator has asked the manufacturers of personal computers to pay a fee of about $13 U.S. dollars to copyright owners for every new PC they sell. The fee would serve as compensation for assumed digital copying by PC owners.

The controversial proposal drew immediate fire from the PC industry. The industry made clear the idea would be challenged in court. If successful, it could lead to similar levies on video recorders, printers, hard drives or any device that could be used to make a copy of commercial media.

Germany is the first country in Europe to attempt to impose a copyright levy on electronic media products. No such levies exist in the U.S., though the U.S. and most European countries long have imposed special copyright fees on the sale of blank digital audio and videocassettes.

Proponents argue that the levies are a legitimate means of compensating copyright holders for the use of their work. That’s based on the assumption that many people use PCs to save and copy works that normally would be subject to royalties. Consumer organizations have been fighting the levies on the grounds that they raise prices and are based on the false premise that people are using computers to illegally copy protected works.

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