Poland's 'piracy tax' should be expanded to phones and tablets too, say authors

The Polish levy paid on blank storage media to compensate rightsholders for piracy should be added to even more hardware, according to the country's composers and writers.

The Netherlands is one of several countries that collect a levy on sales of blank storage media and use the money raised to compensate rightsholders for copyright infringement.

When the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the practice — known as the 'piracy tax' — was flawed earlier this year, it was expected that the system would begin to be dismantled across the continent. It seems the opposite could be the case.

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While the ECJ seemed to have given a pretty clear signal on the subject of copyright compensation levies, Polish authors' trade body ZAiKS has been lobbying to broaden the 'piracy tax' system in place in the country.

Currently, the Polish system of compensating copyright owners leans a lot on charging an extra fee on blank media — including CDs and DVDs, USB keys, hard drives, and copying equipment such as CD burners. But according to ZAiKS (the Polish Society of Authors and Composers), the system is in need of a revamp.

ZAiKS and other organisations "require, among other things, the list of chargeable media to include smartphones and tablets, and the removal of for example video cassette recorders", Anna Biernacka, head of the ZAiKS organisational team, told ZDNet.

"The proposal is being put forward because of changes in technology, which has resulted in certain technology that is no longer sold [being part of the levy system] while newer technology that is very popular does not feature on the list."

According to the proposal, some devices such as TVs, digital cameras, and devices with a recording function would be subject to a one percent levy, while devices such as laptops and smartphones would be charged an additional two percent.

ZAiKS' lobbying efforts might come across as a little surprising given recent events, including the ECJ's decision to reject the Dutch levy system back in April. Not only that but, like the Netherlands, Poland's legal system doesn't prohibit downloading material from copyright-infringing sources.

That combination, the ECJ ruled, is unacceptable. A Polish copyright expert told Central European Processing  that it was only a matter of time before the law in Poland would have to adapt.

In the Polish common vernacular, the levy is commonly referred to as the 'piracy tax', highlighting the similarities with the former Dutch system. However, Biernacka disagrees with that, writing that the wording in Polish law excludes the use of the levy as compensation for piracy.

"Polish law stipulates 'the payment for blank media' as a compensation for legal copying of copyrighted works," she said. "In no way is it a payment for 'piracy', and it does not legalise 'piracy'."

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