ECJ: Advocat General’s Opinion on copyright levies on printers and PCs

Dr. Fabian Niemann & Lea Mackert

On January 24, 2013-01-30 the Advocate General (“AG”) of the European Court for Justice (“ECJ”) published its opinion in the joined cases of German collecting societies against several manufacturers of printers and PCs (C-457/11, C-458/11, C-459/11 and C-460/11). These cases are based on a referral for preliminary ruling by the German Federal Court of Justice (“FCJ”) involving questions in connection with the application of copyright levies on printers and PCs. In essence, the AG made the following statements.

Article 5(2)(a) of Directive 2001/29/EC only refers to copies made by an “analogue to analogue process”, thus classic reprographic reproductions. However, reproductions involving as an intermediate stage the storage of a digital image on a computer or memory device shall be encompassed in case the process as a whole is carried out by a single person and/or as a single operation.

According to the AG it should in principle be legitimate to charge a levy on the manufacture, import or sale of devices which can be used when linked together in a chain, but not individually to make relevant copies (chain of devices). However, it is not fair and would distort competition between suppliers of different devices to apply to each device in a chain the same levy as for standalone devices ...

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