Private copying – sense and sensibility?

1/3 of the world’s population meet daily on networks powered by digital technology, apparently.  A large proportion of them do so to listen to music or to watch a video.  What is the value of this digital technology without the creations?

Well, according to Mr. Higgins, director General of digital Europe, it seems that the more consumers use ICT devices to enjoy creative content, the less the ICT industry should contribute to remunerate creators. They do not want to pay the remuneration for private copying. Their creativity in finding ways to avoid payment knows no bounds. They have proposed a series of possible contributors other than themselves: the state budget, lotteries, broadcasting licence fee, EU funds, etc. Not a word on the profit they generate from the sale of devices whose value, to a great extent, derives from their ability to copy and stock creative works.

They think that they may have won a first battle. Spain just decided to remove its levy system and replaced it with a subsidy from the state budget. From €115m collected from ICT industries in 2011, we go to €5m in 2012 coming from taxpayers money in a country devastated by the crisis.

And as a consequence, what do you think has happened to the sale price of their products now that they do not pay for private copying in this market? Nothing. The prices remain at the same level as before and the same as in countries where levies exist. So device prices have not decreased, consumers do not pay less and creators receive no compensation. How can the ICT industry justify such a direct gift to themselves?

European governments simply should not be spending tax payers money to placate some of the world’s biggest tech companies.

Consumers will hopefully see the Spanish example as proof that removing levies does not mean cheaper devices.

But the ICT industries have not yet won this battle. The SAA is working on a complaint to the European Commission against the Spanish Government for this breach of Spain’s obligations under the copyright directive. Authors have a long history of fighting for their legitimate right to create freely and live from the revenues generated by their works. It goes back to the 18th Century when bookstores thought that they could use works freely without any consideration for their authors, and it continued with any new intermediary using creative content. Creators embrace the wide legal distribution and copying of their works, as long as they can continue to freely create. They will win because consumers need to watch good stories on the screens, and so do ICT industry members.

Last but not least. Commissioner Barnier very wisely organised a mediation on the issue of private copying, between rightsholders who are the beneficiaries of the remunerations, and the ICT industry who pays them. While the mediator has not yet issued his recommendations, the ICT has gone public trying to impose their narrow views on the issue, without any respect for the Commissioner’s process.

Mr Higgins quotes Beaumarchais, and not their bottom line. Good, let us  change roles. I work for the author members of SACD in France, founded by Beaumarchais, and I will quote their figures: Digital Europe’s members’ revenues : €1 trillion. Private copying collections : €648m, i.e. 0.06 %. Do not be fooled.

Janine Lorente

Chair of the SAA board of Directors

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