'Piracy tax' on blank storage: Rights-holders want €36 extra on German mobiles

'Piracy tax' on blank storage: Rights-holders want €36 extra on German mobiles

Summary: In Germany, representatives of the creative industries are demanding extra duties on devices that could potentially store pirated content in a move that could add euros to the cost of everything from hard disks to USB sticks

TOPICS: Piracy

Germany's long running feud between rights-holders in the creative industries and hardware vendors has entered a new phase.

In the red corner: a number of bodies who collect revenues for Germany's publishing, music, art and photography industries that have formed the ZPUe (Zentralstelle für private Überspielungsrechte), who are pushing for a levy on blank storage media. In the blue corner: Bitkom (Bundesverband Informationswirtschaft, Telekommunikation und neue Medien or the Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media) made up of technology vendors, who are opposing the duty.

The ZPUe this month asked for a levy of €7 to be placed on external hard disks of up to 1TB, and €9 for those of more than 1TB. The organisation is also demanding a duty of up to €36 per mobile phone and about €2 per USB stick, and wants all levies to apply retroactively from 2008.

The duties are necessary as such devices could potentially be used to store pirated content, the ZPUe says. The body has a duty to protect the rights of its members, and the levy on empty storage could be used to compensate rights-holders for revenues lost to piracy, according to the organisation.

Bitkom, however, believes the ZPUe's demands are exorbitant.

Very little space on hard disks is actually used to store pirated content, Bitkom says, citing research from the GfK Group.

According to GfK's research, 32 percent of Germans own an external hard disk and less than three percent of the average capacity is occupied by pirated content.

It's an argument that fails to cut any ice with ZPUe.

A spokesperson for organisation said that the market research actually strengthens the position of its members: "The German Federal Court of Law [Germany's top court] has recently ruled that it's the absolute number of pirated copies that is relevant, not the percentage of total capacity. The argument put forward by Bitkom is legally irrelevant." Three percent of an average hard disk would be 18 GB. "You can store a lot of pirated content on 18 GB."

It's not just the IT industry that have seen increased demands from the creative industries' associations: recently the music association GEMA, one of the members of ZPUe, has upped the price that restaurants and nightclubs have to pay between 400 and 2000 percent for playing recorded music. Many observers fear that this increase could effectively kill off the German party scene.

According to USB maker Transcend Information, the case is likely to be brought before the German patent office in an attempt to settle the two sides' differences peacefully. Should this approach fail, as now seems probable, a court battle lasting years could well follow.

Topic: Piracy

Jakob Jung

About Jakob Jung

Jakob Jung holds a PhD. in history and American Studies. He has been writing for German IT publications for over twelve years for publications including CRN, InformationWeek, ZDNet, Heise, ECMGuide, Database Developer, Mobile Developer and Network Computing. His experience of being historian has been surprisingly good preparation for an IT career as nothing becomes obsolete as fast as the latest gadgets.

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  • Translation: Parasites want to suck more blood from consumers.

    These parasitic, amoral pieces of subhuman filth should be put on a rocket and fired into the sun. Only then will there be any hope for justice and equitable treatment for the consumer.
    • Why don't you go stick your head in a toilet

      And don't come up for air.

      RIAA scum.
      • Uh...

        I'm pretty sure he was referring to the RIAA and their brethren as well.
        Hallowed are the Ori
  • Gut... Ich habe keine Raubkopien auf meine Festplatte...

    I don't have any pirated copies of anything on my mobile phone or external hard disk, where do I apply for a refund on the "tax"? :-P
  • let's follow this line of reasoning

    OK. Setting aside for the moment the idiocy that you are punishing hard drive makers for something that they have absolutely no control or responsibility for . . . why hard drive and storage exactly? Why not headphones, that play the music, or sound card chips, or RAM, or CPU's, or TV's and monitors that display pirated movies. It's all just as necessary to copy, store, and play back the media. Where does it stop?

    And then there's the fact that they are trying to ensconce in law the fact that illegal copying will still be illegal, but someone will pay for it, which is a tacit approval and blessing for that illegal activity. Huh?

    And then of course people might well be encouraged to copy even more: 'Hey, I already paid the fee on my equipment, am I not then entitled to copy the material?" And they would certainly have a point.

    The whole thing is ridiculous on so many levels. Unless of course you are trying to ensconce piracy as the actual entertainment industry business model.
    • I think Canada already does something like this

      Where there charge extra for blank DVD-Rs and CD-Rs. It's built into the price.
      • Don't they do it in the US as well?

        I think the US does this as well, but I could be mistaken.
        Hallowed are the Ori
  • Photocopy paper? Toner cartridges?

    What's next, a tax on photocopy paper? Toner cartridges? "Hey, they can just stick it in a copy machine and copy a book or magazine. They should have to pay several Euros per ream of copy paper!"
    • The devices are already taxed

      It's irritating for those of us who don't pirate, but publishers need some sort of compensation for all of the piracy that goes on.

      Copying of textbooks is especially widespread (at least in Europe), which is annoying on two levels. First, it motivates these taxes on devices. Second, it leads to higher prices for those of us who pay. For textbooks, I think the best solution is for publishers to come up with very convenient and reasonably priced e-books, based on a cloud model with dedicated readers, and with features aimed at students, which could kill most of the demand for pirated copies in developed countries.
      • Textbooks

        What they really need to do with textbooks is stop the crap of issuing a new edition every 2-3 years for things like foreign languages, Freshman Composition, and most other courses. First Year Chemistry, Physics, etc., just doesn't change.

        The only reason they issue new editions is to prevent students from buying used textbooks. Even most junior-level material doesn't change. I majored in German in college and also took a lot of Spanish. Years later I took a bunch of Accounting and tax courses. 19th Century German Prose, etc., just doesn't change. The same for Introductory and Intermediate Accounting.

        I personally don't like e-readers for complex material because I *have to* see it on paper for it to sink in. But that's mainly because that's how I learned and there are certain things that you can't just "learn a new way". (I'm a lawyer. Lawyers who learned to draft documents with a legal pad just can't do it with dictation or a computer. We who learned on a computer can't do it with voice recognition software or a legal pad. The "dinosaurs" who learned to dictate (actually the fastest way ...) can't do it with a legal pad or computer.)
  • All tech companies

    should just stop selling anything in Germany. They are idiots and strangle every sector of tech to benefit a vaporous definition of infringed artists.
  • Did it

    Listen up, whippersnappers. Long ago, in a galaxy far away -- or maybe it was the U.S. in the 1970's -- there really was a fee imposed on blank cassette tapes for precisely this purpose. So far as I know, similar fees were imposed on blank music CDs, CD writers, and in turn DVD stuff. None of this is new.
    Robert Hahn
  • This is not new.

    Microsoft paid a fee to Universal for every Zune sold.

    The record companies have been going on about this since the release of the compact cassette in the early 1960s.
  • Not a solution

    Taxes of this level are not out of line with other countries in Northern Europe. They help to compensate firms for piracy, but are not a solution. One downside is that some people see them as legitimising piracy. Another is that they do nothing to counteract piracy in other countries, e.g. in Eastern Europe and China, where it is much more widespread. (It would be interesting to see what would happen to China's current account surplus if Chinese firms and consumers actually paid for all of the IP they pirate.)

    On the positive side, these taxes are very convenient. One of the most popular arguments for piracy (at least amongst people I've known who do it) is convenience. Legal downloads often have ridiculous regional restrictions and complex purchasing requirements. Within the supposed 'single market' of the EU, I've had huge headaches trying to buy digital media across borders, and can perfectly understand why people prefer to pirate (not that I agree with it). It's really ridiculous, and I think the EC should focus more on things like creating a true single market for digital media, and less on stupidity like web browser bundling (when web browsers aren't even properly products, since none of the major ones are sold).
    • No offense

      but if I find out I am paying a tax to those scumbags for so-called pirating, then I shall take full advantage of my pre-criminalised status. I already pay taxes so that entire families of layabouts who've never worked in their lives can scratch their backsides and smoke fags. If you think I'm paying another tax so that everyone else can copy stuff at my expense, you have got another think coming.....
  • companys over sea

    your all wrong must of the piracy mostly over sea and they do not want you to know this all
    they just want to get more taxs ??????????????