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The Courts Government News

German Court Sets Copyright Tax on New PCs 428

Posted by michael
from the since-you're-paying-already,-might-as-well-fire-up-kazaa dept.
graemee pastes: "The District Court of Munich has ordered Fujitsu Siemens Computers to pay a copyright levy on new PCs. The landmark decision, announced on Thursday, ends a nearly two-year dispute between the largely Germany-based computer maker and the country's VG Wort rights society, which has sought compensation for digital copying. VG Wort had filed a suit against Germany's largest PC maker, Fujitsu Siemens, seeking 30 euro (US$41) for each new computer sold in the country. The court agreed to a 12 euro copyright levy."
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German Court Sets Copyright Tax on New PCs

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  • by rokzy (687636) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:03AM (#11232918)
    ... vomit in absolute disgust.

    Unless of course this completely ligitimises copying c.f. Canada. somehow I doubt it though.
    • by sepluv (641107) <`blakesley' `at' `gmail.com'> on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:14AM (#11232943) Homepage
      May I be the first to do so regardless of whether anything is legitimised; that would make it even worse IMO--as I don't download non-free (as in freedom) music or software, and this would be very unfair to copyright holders who do not join the local German monopolistic protection racketeers.
      • by catwh0re (540371) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @09:04AM (#11233181)
        What doesn't make sense is that it's a tax on something which is illegal.

        It's like the cd-r issue. Either the RIAA gets money from a tax on cd-r, or they get to enforce their copyright for damages in the court... but not both. Both these organisations are effectively double dipping. This shows how courts and governments can be manipulated given the right amount of money.

        Why it's wrong is that users pay a fee for using their cd-rs for any legitimate content, and anyone that uses their computer is similarly paying a fee, for the possibility that they might do something illegal with their machine.

        (The RIAA and similar organisations are too used to their lucrative contractual deals where they get alot of money for doing very little, such as 15% breakage fees still existing from vinyl days, when even then it was ridiculous for the artist to be paying for that.)

        • Why it's wrong is that users pay a fee for using their cd-rs for any legitimate content, and anyone that uses their computer is similarly paying a fee, for the possibility that they might do something illegal with their machine.

          The grandparent was originally talking about Canada. Copying music isn't illegal in Canada. You may legally upload and download all the music you want because everyone pays the tax.

          • Has the Canadian government ever paid even one cent in the collected copyright tax to the copyright owners?

            The last I have heard it had been a couple of years and they hadn't paid anything to the copyright holders, yet.

            And, for what it's worth, in the US, there are also taxes on both audio recording equipment and media. Check out Title 17, Chapter 10, Subsection C - Royalty Payments [cornell.edu]

            • Firstly, it's a levy, not a tax; basically this means the charge is based on something other (i.e. storage capacity) than price or cost. Secondly, it is collected by SLOCAN, the Canadian organisation which handles copyright issues for musicians and composers.

              The last time I checked (a few months ago), there have been no monies paid out.

            • by InvalidError (771317) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @12:44PM (#11233803)
              Thankfully, the federal court ruled that levies were redundant and should be terminated.

              While we might not know where all the levy money went, we at least now know the levies will be gone soon (in Canada), assuming they have not already been abolished thanks to the court's decision.

              I wonder what kind of share independents manage to get from royalty claims. Since the RIAA regularly forgets that a free/independent market exists and sues intependents who distribute their own stuff, it must be quite a hassle for independents to fight off the RIAA if it accidentally (but happily) files levy claims for unlicensed productions.

              People should realize that governments are becoming a system of "by rich people for rich people" instead of the "by the people for the people" they used to be and should be - governments are another area where the barriers to entry are rising every round, effectively keeping most people out.
        • by rxmd (205533) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @11:21AM (#11233493) Homepage
          What doesn't make sense is that it's a tax on something which is illegal.
          No, it isn't. Firstly, it's not a tax, it's a levy collected by a third body and redistributed to creators of written content. Secondly, it doesn't compensate them for illegal copying, it compensates them for the amount of Fair Use copying that is legal under German law (private and academic use).
          • by whorfin (686885) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @12:30PM (#11233743)
            So the German government has created an additional fee for practicing fair use of already purchased content? If that's the case, then WTF do they think fair use means, then? I thought it meant that 'because you have paid for it, you have the rights to this good for your personal use'?

            They should have a similar fee on all printers, copiers and scanners, since using one of those may also be practicing fair use. Not to mention CD and DVD players, televisions, and radios. Thos machines are also essential elements in fair use of purchased media.

            I've got it, the eyeball and earlobe fee, that way they can get everybody. Doesn't matter if your deaf and blind, because I'm sure those people don't get out of paying the 'fair use fee' on their computers.
            • by rxmd (205533) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @02:55PM (#11234332) Homepage
              So the German government has created an additional fee for practicing fair use of already purchased content? If that's the case, then WTF do they think fair use means, then? I thought it meant that 'because you have paid for it, you have the rights to this good for your personal use'?
              Well, according to the German law in question, it means "because you have paid for it, you are allowed to copy it for private or academic purposes. However, since you're creating a copy and not buying another original, the author gets a [small] compensation, which is collected through fees on media [in the case of audio and video material] or on reproduction equipment [in the case of written material]".
              They should have a similar fee on all printers, copiers and scanners, since using one of those may also be practicing fair use.
              Surprise surprise: this is the fee on copiers, actually; the whole court decision was about wether it should apply to PCs as well. You don't have to agree with this viewpoint (I don't), but it's not a new fee.
              Not to mention CD and DVD players, televisions, and radios. Thos machines are also essential elements in fair use of purchased media.
              Actually, there is a fee on empty tapes as well as CD-R media for precisely this reason. It makes a lot more sense to raise this fee on empty media in the case of audio and video material. With written material, it would have been difficult to raise a fee on empty paper, so they're raising it on reproduction equipment instead.
        • by Kithraya (34530) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @01:31PM (#11233987)
          It's like the cd-r issue. Either the RIAA gets money from a tax on cd-r, or they get to enforce their copyright for damages in the court... but not both. Both these organisations are effectively double dipping. This shows how courts and governments can be manipulated given the right amount of money.

          Actually, they may get to do both here. In the US, 22 states now have laws on the books that say drug dealers must pay tax on the illegal drugs they sell. Of course these states aren't actually going to collect anything, but it gives them something else to charge drug dealers with when they're arrested. Unfortunately, this is an example that the RIAA can point at and say "look, we can tax an illegal activity and still go after people for doing it." IANAL, but this seems a very dangerous example to set.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 01, 2005 @08:07AM (#11233061)
      In Germany dogs pay tax (true), and TV and Radio receivers pay tax also (16EUR/month). There is a tax of 16% in just about everything you buy, including most food items, and there is also a solidarity tax that goes to rebuild east Germany. If you don't ask for it, you will get a deduction called "church tax" from your paycheck, and at the end of the year there will be even more tax deductions.
      Those who live for creating new taxes will succeed on collecting them, and their money will be one legally collected, but somehow not really deserved, which will benefit them on the short run only. The problem is obviously an old set of laws that were not created with the new Digital World in mind. Hopefully governments will call young people to revise outdated schemes making impossible for old structures to predate on people's resources in such ominous ways.
      For the rest of us, there is a law that says: "hecha la ley, hecha la trampa" ("done the law, done the trap" or, there is always a way around a stupid law). Hack your system.
    • by IO ERROR (128968) * <error.ioerror@us> on Saturday January 01, 2005 @11:14AM (#11233465) Homepage Journal
      And based on my experiences here in the U.S., the easiest way to expose this decision is to make this levy appear as a line item on the invoice. For instance:

      Siemens Kick-Ass PC &euro;699
      120GB Hard Drive
      1GB RAM
      Keyboard
      Mouse
      Digital copying levy &euro;12

      And people will ask questions about it. Then you explain it (in the FAQ or a brochure) and point people toward the government.

  • by Cederic (9623) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:04AM (#11232921) Journal

    They're already paid for.

    (Sure the courts wont see it that way)

    ~cederic
    • by Teun (17872) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:56AM (#11233038) Homepage
      Yep, free downloads.

      You've indeed paid royalties for the stuff you copy.

      Yet this does not make it legal to offer someone else's work for copying.

      Various European courts have already confirmed that the downloaders are not the infringers but the uploaders are.

      • How about if you limited the number of downloads?

        It's about US$41 or so tax per PC. Given that songs are about US$0.99 on iTunes, simply advertise on your web site that you will give copies of some song to the first 41 downloaders, all paid for by you.

  • by Buran (150348) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:05AM (#11232922)
    By doing this, they're legitimizing the same activities they claim to be trying to stop. If you are going to pass a levy to compensate for something, you can't expect anyone to listen when you tell them to stop. They will (rightly) say "I paid an extra tax on this equipment to cover the cost of what I'm doing." They'll either have to stop charging a levy or fin that no one will listen.
    • by Seumas (6865) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:30AM (#11232977)
      This actually suggests two things.

      First, it would seem to legitimize copying copyrighted material - since they are charging you a fee to cover that very thing.

      Second, if they still prosecute people copying copyrighted material on a home computer, then how can they justify this? They are already penalizing people without due process and assuming that they are guilty of copyrighting (charging them for it whether they do it or not).

      • you have to pay tax on coke in North Carolina [state.nc.us]

        Marijuana stems & stalks that have
        been separated from the plant.

        $.40 for each gram
        or fraction thereof

        More than 42.5 grams

        Marijuana other than
        separated stems and stalks

        $3.50 for each gram
        or fraction thereof

        More than 42.5 grams

        Cocaine

        $50.00 for each gram
        or fraction thereof

        7 or more grams

        Any other controlled substance
        that is sold by weight

        $200.00 for each gram
        or fraction thereof

        7 or more grams
        • Re:drugs tax (Score:3, Insightful)

          by HeghmoH (13204)
          That's not the same thing. This would be more like paying a Marijuana Tax on potting soil, because you might use the soil to grow marijuana.
    • You are 100% right on it.
      When France discussed a possible tax on storage media (including HDs!) the response was the same: since we pay a tax on copying, this means we can do it.
    • That is a feeble justification that is simply false.

      It's like saying that the city _lowering_ the speed limit in certain areas is only encouraging people to break the law in those areas more frequently by speeding.

      Get a grip.... the levies are insignificant compared to the impact that other everyday things like inflation would have on the prices anyways.

      Although I live in a socialist country, so perhaps I have a higher tolerance for this sort of thing.

      • Is it, really? The purpose of the levy is to make sure that things that are copied are paid for, that the right people get compensated for whatever they're getting compensated for. If one pays the levy, one is paying for what one does. So there's no justification for anyone to complain when you do what you have earned the ability to do by paying the levy?

        I pay money every year for the tax levies appropriate to registering a car and having a license to drive said car. That's what I get in exchange for payin
  • I could use a pencil to 'copy' a piece of art. And there should also be a copyright levy on the human voice for the ability to sing along with a song.
    • This argument has been done to death. If you copy a piece of artwork with a pencil, you're most likely not creating an EXACT replica. With digital media, it's trivial to produce copies that are indistinguishable from the original. And as for singing along with a song, as long as you're not recording yourself and distributing copies then you're not playing the same game, much less in the same ballpark, as the pirates these types of measures are intended to compensate for.

      I support our digital freedoms as
    • In the Netherlands, there's already a levy on CD recordables. Back when I had a sound studio I found it pretty unfair that I had to pay a tax on *legal* copies of CD's.
  • by ral315 (741081)
    Don't give Bush any ideas ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    this assumes that everyone is a thief and makes the people who make the product pay for what people use their products for, even a legitimate use...which then gets passed onto the consumer. Such a stupid legal move IMO
  • by Nine Tenths of The W (829559) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:09AM (#11232931)
    Do independent and alternative labels get any of the copyright taxes in countries like Germany and Canada, or does it all go to the RIAA equivalents?
    • If the German agency for collecting royalties is anything like the Dutch one, the answer would be yes... and no. At a rough guess, half the money collected is used to pay for the collection agency itself (as is usually the case), perhaps 15% will find its way abroad (even though most music played here is foreign); the rest goes to Dutch artists (including independent ones) divided according to radio stations' playlists.
    • The publishers, the composers and the lyricists get each their share directly.
      From the horses mouth [www.gema.de].
  • by DrStrangeLug (799458) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:11AM (#11232934)
    You pay car tax and you're legally allowed to drive a car.

    You pay tobacco tax and you're legally allowed to smoke it.

    So if you pay a "digital copying tax" on a computer, you must be allowed to do digital copying on it, surely?

    Out of curiosity, if you built a pc from scratch, which component gets this tax, or is it split up between all of them ?
    • Logically, yes... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lxt (724570)
      In order to drive a car, you have to pay a tax. It's the law.

      However, in order to make a digital copy, or a copy of anything, you don't need to pay anything. Nothing, no tax, zilch. Assuming, of course, that you already own the source material you're copying.

      I just don't see how you could justify a tax for copying, because you're either going to be copying illegally obtained material (in which case you can't really tax it, because it would legitimise the crime - you really can't tax something which is ill
      • Re:Logically, yes... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Eskarel (565631)
        Actually the government does tax illegal activities. You're supposed to pay income tax on any money you get regardless of the source and, in theory, the tax department(at least here) isn't supposed to care, so long as you pay your taxes.Al Capone went down for tax evasion not for illegal activities.

        As an amusing side note, and an example of sticking it to the man, we had a local drug dealer here who got caught by the police, and sent to jail. The tax department wanted to tax him on his ill gotten income, an

    • In 1937, the US Federal Government passed the Marijuana Tax Act.

      Do let me know when I'll be free to start smoking marijuana, won't you?
      • Do let me know when I'll be free to start smoking marijuana, won't you?

        You were somewhat free to do so after they passed it. Except that the law required you have the marijuana to get the license and required a license to have the marijuana.

        The Supreme Court didn't laugh and ruled it unconstitutional in 1969 on the grounds that it forced self-incrimination. In 1970, it was officially made illegal in the Controlled Substances Act.

    • You often already pay such taxes on CD/DVD burners and media. Where will it all end? taxing hearing aids as these can enable someone to listen to pirate music?
    • by Tom (822) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:40AM (#11233004) Homepage Journal
      So if you pay a "digital copying tax" on a computer, you must be allowed to do digital copying on it, surely?

      Yes, that's the point. In Germany, copying for private purposes is explicitly allowed by law. There are many court cases setting the limits, of course. However, the "Privatkopie" right is quite broad, and it does include making a few (the generally agreed limit is 5 or 6 in total) copies for friends.
      • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:52AM (#11233030) Journal
        Yes, that's the point. In Germany, copying for private purposes is explicitly allowed by law.
        If people are forced pay this hefty tax on blank media and even on computers, then private copying should become a right rather than a privilege. That means that publishers should be forbidden to add any DRM, region codes, Macrovision and whatnot to their content.

        Of course that side of the bargain is always conveniently overlooked. I hope this 'success' won't mean similar arrangements in other European countries; but the movie industry would love to collect a tax for private copies we can't make.
        • by henni16 (586412) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @11:26AM (#11233515)
          The *sweet* thing about German copyright law and this taxes:
          • The lobby groups are active in buying copyright law updates, since last year very successful
          • Yes, you were allowed to make some private copies for yourself and famuily/close friends, because you pay taxes for CDs, printers, scanners and whatnot
          • BUT since September you may only do so if there is no "copy protection" on the media - and most CDs (in Germany) and DVDs (CSS counts as _copy_ protection) are "protected", so you might not even have the right to make a backup..; I think in "pre-digital-age" you were even allowed (because of the taxes) to make a copy of a rented VHS for yourself, despite all the stupid FBI-Warnings etc
          • You are not allowed anymore to circumvent copy protection, to offer software that does it (CloneCD for example, various DVD-backup solutions) or to describe how to do it (DMCA, anyone?)
          • Since September ou are not sllowed to make a copy from "obviously illegal sources" (introduced to cover P2P)
          • The "VG Wort" mentioned here covers only written works like books and pictures - for copying music there is another "VG" who collects additional taxes..
          • If you really want to vomit, read their proposals for the next changes, like the power to request customer information for IP adresses from ISPs..

          As a footnote: the movie industry has used lots of pressure on shops and video stores to forbid the import of non-RC2-DVDs (you can't buy/rent them anywhere anymore). There are sometimes price differences that you could order an RC1-DVD-player from amazon.com with your RC1-DVDs and pay less than buying the RC2-DVDs in Germany.
          Example: just waiting for the 4th season of Angel;
          RC1: ~42 Euros from playusa.com(+possible customs and German VAT (16%))
          RC2: 110-120(!) Euros, depending on the shops..
      • I think it's a bad route to go down taxing one industury and giving the revinue to another, no matter what the reasons behind it are.
    • I don't think it works that way. Where I live (Spain) we pay a tax every time we buy a CD-R(W). This tax was put there to compensate the artists for private copies you could make with that CD. A private copy is a right you have, and it means you can copy a CD you've already purchased. In other words, if I buy the latest Prodigy album I'm allowed by law to make backup copies to e.g. use in my car. This doesn't allow me to borrow your copy and make a duplicate. This tax gives them money because, in their opi
  • Parts? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by miyako (632510) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <okayim>> on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:11AM (#11232936) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how this will effect people who build their own PCs. Does the tax only apply to people who buy a pre-fab machine, or will individual components also be taxed, or is it on the honor system where if you build a computer at home you are obligated to send in the ammount required by the tax.
    As assinine as this is overall, I would much rather pay a $50 tax on any computer than have the media industries completely destroy or cripple beyond recognition the internet and anything remotely interesting that computers can do.
    • >I would much rather pay a $50 tax on any computer than have the media industries completely destroy or cripple beyond recognition the internet and anything remotely interesting that computers can do.

      I prefer the latter, since it would fail and be a wake up call for the public.
      • Re:Parts? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by IdleTime (561841)
        Wake up!!!

        I know it is january 1st and you probably have a hang-over, but I got news for you: The public don't care! The only ones who care are /.'ers and other geeks. Joe Schmoe have no idea what we are talking about. The average computer user don't donwload music.
        • Re:Parts? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Shadow99_1 (86250)
          "The average computer user don't donwload music."

          I beg to differ. Now being a department lead for a stores software department gives me a vierw most opeople don't have... But the two questiosn I get asked the most are about software to copy music and software to copy movies...

          In fact I get more pissed off people from having to say that it would be illegal to sell them software that could copy commercial DVD's than anything else bar none... With repsonses like "Why would I buy a DVD-burner except to copy D
    • Re:Parts? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sweetshark (696449)
      This tax was already applied to CD/DVD-burners and blank media.
      http://www.golem.de/0301/23447.html [golem.de](german)
      (google tranlation) [google.com]
      The GEMA is/was also trying to get the tax on printers, IIRC ...
  • Wait a minute.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by torako (532270) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:15AM (#11232944) Homepage
    Now, before anyone gets any wrong ideas here and stars complaining about music, independent labels etc:

    VG Wort is not about music. VG Wort is responsible for collecting money on written documents / books and the rights associated with them. And they are right about wanting to get that levy on computers, because people who want to set up Xerox machines and use them commercialy have had to pay that levy since, eh, always (And thereby you have the right to copy material out of books without owning the books).

    So yes, you have to pay the levy, but you are also allowed to make non-commercial copies of books / magazines etc because of that. Stop complaining.

    • here in UK I get to make such copies without a tax thanks
    • So yes, you have to pay the levy, but you are also allowed to make non-commercial copies of books / magazines etc because of that.

      Interesting, but weird. How am I supposed to copy a book or magazine with a computer? I see three ways:

      • Use a scanner. But in that case, the levy should be on the scanner, not on the computer, because by itself the computer can not be used for copying.
      • Type it all in. But besides the fact that that is so much work that (almost) nobody will do it, the same thing can be done wi
    • Re:Wait a minute.. (Score:3, Informative)

      by tigress (48157)
      Well, in Sweden (I don't know about other countries), you're allowed to make copies of extracts of books and magazines. It's called "Fair Use".

      Under fair use, you're not allowed to copy entire books or magazines but an article or two is allowed.
  • EU free trade (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kin242 (789922)
    This just means that german PC sales will drop and the countries surrounding it will benefit. How inane. But at least this semi-legitimizes piracy in Germany (pre-paid).
  • Exactly which of my rights is this ruling violating?

    Even if you aren't Eurepean, anyone who reads the article will know that this is an extension of a common European practice to mandate an additional levy on the price of any appliance that can be used to copy copyrighted material.

    Seems to me that an attempt to convince the court that this levy shouldn't be applied would have to include an attack on all the other levies. Popular among those who don't believe in copyright, but unlikely to prove successful.
    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @08:12AM (#11233072) Journal
      ...a common European practice to mandate an additional levy on the price of any appliance that can be used to copy copyrighted material.
      The levy is generally not on equipment, but on blank media, which is the fairest way to collect it from a practical standpoint: the equipment is used for many other things besides copying and not everyone engages in that, whereas the blank media are used almost eclusively to store copyrighted content. I'm not sure how the German law is worded... in Holland, the law explicitly names the media to which the levy applies (tapes, cds, dvds).
      Seems to me that an attempt to convince the court that this levy shouldn't be applied would have to include an attack on all the other levies.
      No, courts only deal with the application of law to a particular case, never with the law itself (excluding courts which can throw out unconstitutional laws). If a judge would rule that the levy should not include computers, all the existing levies would still remain legal. And even if a judge finds this article of law so badly worded that a case can be made against all levies of this kind, the legislator would simply change the law so that it again accurately reflects the intent of the legislator. This can and does happen all the time. Even so, any ramificiations outside the case would never be taken into consideration by a judge. If his ruling completely screws up IP taxation, traffic regulations and the movements of the very planets, he'd still pronounce it, if it would be the correct application of the law to the case at hand. Politics doesn't enter into it.

      By the way, if I remember correctly, Canada for one applies the levy also to hard disks (I'm not sure Germany does this). So Canadians already pay the IP tax on their computers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:26AM (#11232973)

    First they tax CD-R(W) media by default because they assume you will use them for copyright-protected content and now they're also making you pay an additional tax on computers because they assume you will illegally be using copyright-protected content on your computer. They just assume mens rea without proving it on an individual basis. Guilty until proven otherwise is the premise Germanic law is based on. The German legal system as well as all other modern legal systems are based on Roman law, which is based on the premise that you are innocent until proven guilty. How this decision could have come about is totally beyond me. What's next? An additional tax on eyeglasses because you might use them to view copyright-protected content?!

    Just as a reminder, the four levels of mens rea set forth in the MPC (Model Penal Code) are:

    (1) Purposely - Express purpose to commit a specific crime against a particular person

    (2) Knowingly - Knowledge that one's actions would certainly result in a crime against someone, but did not specifically intend to commit that crime against the particular victim which one is accused of injuring

    (3) Recklessly - Knew that one's actions had an unjustifiable risk of leading to a certain result, but did not care about that risk ("reckless disregard"), and acted anyway

    (4) Negligently - Did not intend to cause the result that happened, but failed to exercise a reasonable duty of care to prevent that result (which includes failing to become aware of the risk of that result)

    Some commentators like to add on a fifth uncodified level (technically applicable only in civil lawsuits and not criminal prosecutions):

    (5) Strict liability - Did everything possible to prevent the result that happened, but will be held liable anyway as a matter of public policy, because the government wants to force all such similarly situated persons to always exercise the maximum reasonable duty of care under such circumstances.
    • by Yokaze (70883) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:58AM (#11233044)
      > because they assume you will illegally be using copyright-protected content on your computer.

      No, you misunderstood the intent of the law. The intent of the law is not to make you pay in advance for breaking the law, but for extending your rights as consument by compensating the producer.

      The tax was levied on copying devices and media because you were allowed to make copies of music and films. Not just for you personally, but also for friends and family.

      I speak in past tense, because AFAIK, the law has been somewhat modified.
    • If this law assumed that everyone is guilty, the levy would not be 12 euro, it would be 1200 euro (the price of a thousand MP3s). This law is simply a practical tool to compensate content producers for the (perceived) losses while not harming or inconveniencing the consumers in any significant way.

      So this law doesn't imply that anyone breaks the law, it's just another tax.
  • I'll gladly pay a $10 tax on the computers I buy, I'll make sure I get my moneys worth in music and movies though (although with todays music, I might have a hard time getting my full $10 worth..)
  • SCO v Linux (Score:2, Funny)

    by AtomicSnarl (549626)
    So... Will this replace my SCO Linux license, or do I need both? I'd really like to get my $699 back...
  • Blazing idiocy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Toby The Economist (811138) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @07:45AM (#11233017)
    I hate bureaucracy.

    Tax this, tax that, distort the market.

    VG Wort have increased the price of PCs to *everyone*. Over the whole of the economy, anyone who uses a PC to create a product or offer a service will now have to charge that much more - which means the entire economy is that much less productive, because there is a fixed amount of money available for investment, and the price of buying a PC based service is now higher.

    What's more, the knock on effect is huge, because PCs are vital to so many industries. It will now be that much more expensive to buy *food*, because all the PCs bought by food retailers and wholesalers are that much more expensive; and we ALL buy food!

    This sort of ruling, the very fact is can occur, is a hallmark of the danger of concentrating economic power in the hands of political power.

    This court has both political power - the right to make decisions - and economic power - the right to make decisions which influence, in this case, a form of taxation.

    When political decisions are badly made in the political sphere, the consequences are things like national ID cards, or foreign countries becoming upset with us.

    When political decisions are badly made in the economic sphere, there is less choice of goods to buy, they cost more, and everyone, to a greater or lesser extent, becomes poorer.

    --
    Toby
  • With the EUCD (EU's DMCA) and DRM in place laws of this type don't make any sense.
  • So what happens when a record company release a cd that is "copy proof" in a country that has a media levy? Can the consumers then sue that record company as now they now took your money but are trying to stop you from using your right under law to make copies.
  • ... good thing I do all my work on a Mac.

    Now all I need is that stupid CD-R tax to go away...
  • by siljeal (841276) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @08:13AM (#11233076)
    In Germany you need to pay copyright levies on virtually everything that would be suitable for creating copies, be it on CD/DVD writers, CD-R(W)/DVD-R(W) media, printers, etc. You would think that this copyright levy would entitle you to some fair use, such as private copies of, say, the latest audio cd you bought. And sure enough, even though the very people who get the money would like to abolish any notion of fair use and legal copies for private purposes, you may find that even now you are not allowed to make copies of things you paid for. Way too many audio CDs sold in Germany today have copy protections (I'd rather refer to them as play protections), and by law you may not attempt to overcome these protections, rendering any copy you make an illegal one.

    I think this is really a fine display of greed. Make everyone pay but give nothing in return.
  • I'd gladly pay a small tax (1 or 2%) on PCs and CD-Rs if that ment I now had a free pass to copy/download whatever I wanted without fear of being sued. Whats that? they want all our money still?
  • Canada was here... (Score:3, Informative)

    by whoopass (221946) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @08:42AM (#11233127) Homepage
    In Canada, there has been a copyright tax on blank CDs and on MP3 players. Well the supreme court of Canada just ruled these to be unconstitutional in Canada. Though the court has yet to rule on remidies, it is widely expected that refunds of the levy should be forthcoming. Hence statements in the press of late, that if you should decide to buy a media player in Canada, keep your receipt.

  • by Belisarivs (526071) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @08:49AM (#11233147)
    I realize that Germany isn't America, and doesn't have their government setup the same way, but I thought most modern forms of government had the concept of seperation of powers, that some sort of legislative body makes the laws and the judicial system rules on disputes over those laws.

    I'm surprised that people aren't more upset by the fact that you had here a court creating law. While on the face of it I think the ruling is bogus, I'd be a little bit more upset that judiciary just created a new tax, something that is clearly the job of a legislative body. They've basically usurped the process by which a law is passed, and all the checks and balances built into the system.
    • by rxmd (205533)

      I'm surprised that people aren't more upset by the fact that you had here a court creating law.

      It isn't. It just says that the already existing mandatory compensation fee on Xerox machines (and the like) also extends to PCs. The fee was established to compensate content creators for the copying (of written content) that is allowed under the German Fair Use law. I think it's a bit ridiculous to apply this to computers, but obviously the court thought otherwise.

      While on the face of it I think the ruling

  • by zoward (188110) * <email.me.at.zoward.at.gmail.com> on Saturday January 01, 2005 @08:50AM (#11233150) Homepage
    Since they can't seem to capture Whitey Bulger, the FBI has decideed to throw all US citizens in jail for three days instead.

  • by Get Behind the Mule (61986) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @09:24AM (#11233216)
    I can add some perspective as someone who has received funds from VG Wort, because after all, this is all about people like me, right? The whole point is to protect the rights of copyright holders and ensure that they are adequately compensated for their work. So is it really worth it?

    I co-authored some long-since-forgotten academic articles and a book back in my days as a graduate student. The articles appeared in some conference proceedings, and the book, as well as a couple of the articels, were published in the Lecture Notes series of the Springer Verlag. So my name got put on a list somewhere, and every year for about three or four years, a check from VG Wort came in the mail.

    To put it briefly, I could have just as well done without it. I don't know how they determined how much money was dispersed to each individual, it was based on some formula that I never bothered to try to understand. At any rate, it was nothing to get rich on, maybe about a hundred marks or so if I remember correctly (this was back before the Euro). About enough to take a girl out on a nice dinner date, once a year. Which of course is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you're a student hustling to make ends meet and struggling for ways to impress a girl. But I could have just as well managed without it. (If she's worth it, you always find a way, you know; and one nice dinner in a year won't get you very far.)

    More prolific authors get more money from VG Wort, since the money is based on how much you've published. But I doubt that the cash from VG Wort makes a whole lot of difference to people who make their living as authors; they have to get the vast part of their income by other means.

    So if this is the benefit to society that is to be gained by making everyone pay an extra 12 Euros for each PC, I think it's obvious that we can just as well pass it up. Aside from all the philosophical debates about copyright law and whether it's fair and just to pay creators of content this way, the practical effects of the scheme are just not very significant. Why put this added burden on the buyers of PCs just so some student can take someone out once a year? It's better for everyone, economically and socially, to keep the prices of computer hardware down than to extend this meager benefit to copyright holders.
  • by jeti (105266) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @09:40AM (#11233259) Homepage
    The VG Wort is also the reason why scanners, printers and copy machines often are slower in Germany than in the rest of the world.
    The VG Wort gets a fee based on the throughput of these machines. To lower this fee, many devices sold in Germany are (or were?) sold with reduced speed.
    Sometimes you could speed up peripherals by installing english drivers.
  • by Nice2Cats (557310) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @10:41AM (#11233396)
    If the Americans here could stop foaming at the mouth for a few minutes and listen to what the Germans here are trying to tell them they would realize that this not only makes complete sense, but also shows how much more sane the German system is.

    The important legal difference is that private copies are legal in Germany. Again: In Germany, I can take a DVD, CD, video, whatever, and rip a copy for my own private use. Of course, if I start distributing that copy or screen it in a public place etc. they get to throw the book at me, and will do so very, very hard.

    This Recht auf eine Privatkopie is something German consumer groups have been fighting tooth and nail to keep in he face of massive industry pressure to adopt an American-style "sorry sucker, you can't do jack" system. On the long run, this new ruling will actually work for the consumer, because it weaves the right to a private copy tighter into the greater legal fabric. Now, when I buy a computer, I have paid for that private copy, so industry can just go shove a bratwurst up their Po, with mustard. Or they can try to get the VG Wort system changed -- and good luck with that, because it touches just about every scrap of printed matter in Germany, from newspapers to pornographic novels.

    All the talk here about "guilty until proven innocent" is pure crap by people who haven't taken the time to read the background kindly provided by the Germans on the list and should be modded down as ranting, if not German-bashing.

    As somebody who has lived in Germany for a while let me say that German law for the most part is a very sane, logical, and balanced system that almost across the board is superior to the 18th Century money-comes-first atavism that the U.S. is forced to suffer through. The SCO case proved this quite well: German courts took about a week to bitch-slap Darl's minions back into the real world, while, what is it now, years? later IBM and RedHat are still forced to pour millions into legal fees.

    • As fine as all that may be, why should you have to *pay* for the right to make a backup copy of something you have *already* paid for? It sounds like the pretense is 'we know you are going to give a copy to someone else, depriving us of our deserved right to make each and every 'consumer' with a breath to pay us for a copy of our work, so we think you should pay us ahead of time for doing so, and without us even having to take the effort to suggest that you have or might do so'..

      A charge such as this *assu
    • by sploxx (622853) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @12:00PM (#11233627)
      [...] Recht auf eine Privatkopie [...]
      [...]
      [...] As somebody who has lived in Germany [...]

      How long ago did you left? In the meantime, things got worse regarding copyrights... you know, corruption by lobbies, masked as 'international pressure', 'germany has to stay competitive' (wtf!) etc...

      The right to a 'Privatkopie' only exists on paper now. The new copyright law implemented a few years ago specifically forbids cracking copy ''protections''. What if you want to make an allowed copy of such media?

      Germany's attorney general Brigitte Zypries said that there is no right to personal copies in copyright law ("Das Urheberrecht kennt kein Recht auf Privatkopie", see e.g. this German c't computer magazine article [heise.de]).

      IMHO, such laws show how corrupt our goverment became.
      Interesting opininions on slashdot (comparing copyright violation to drugs and to rape) let me strongly suspect, as another poster in a previous thread said very well: 'meme injection by *AA astroturfing agents'.
    • The important legal difference is that private copies are legal in Germany.

      I would be more impressed with your rant if you knew your facts a bit better. The fact is that there are also similar rights in the US. It is known here as 'fair use'.

      is superior to the 18th Century money-comes-first atavism that the U.S.

      This seems to fly in the face of this recent decision to pre-tax Siemans to benefit copyright holders based on the assumption that everyone buyig a PC is copyright violater.


      German courts to
  • by Lars T. (470328) <Lars...Traeger@@@googlemail...com> on Saturday January 01, 2005 @11:32AM (#11233535) Journal
    Stories about the exact same levy: Germany Mulls A Copyright Levy + VAT For PCs [slashdot.org], Have You Paid Your Bertelsmann Tax Today? [slashdot.org]
  • by Snaller (147050) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @02:23PM (#11234201) Journal
    I mean they can't demand people pay for it and call it illegal at the same time, right?

  • Pre-paid fines... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by linuxhansl (764171) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @05:13PM (#11234998)
    So now they are pre-paying a fine because somebody *might* copy some copyrighted material.

    By the same logic we should all do some pre-time in jail, because we *may* commit a crime in the future.

    Or we could pre-pay some traffic fines, because we *may* speed in the future.

    If I'd buy a computer in Germany, and I could honestly say that I will not copy anything illegal, I would refuse to pay this fee.

"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history." -- George Bernard Shaw

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