Copyright law: BGH accepts PC and printer levy

Germany’s Federal Court of Justice has ruled that PCs and printers sold before 2007 belong to those reproduction devices to which a copyright levy should be applied.

Copyright law: BGH accepts PC and printer levy © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

Copyright law: BGH accepts PC and printer levy © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

Copyright levy

Under German copyright law, the reproduction of copyright-protected material is prohibited. Any copies of copyright-protected works may only be made with the permission of the copyright holder. One exception to this rule is the right of individuals to make private copies of a work. Such private copies are often made via PCs and printers.

To compensate copyright holders for this right to make private copies, a levy of €5 to €12.50 has been applied since 2008 in Germany on the purchase price of computers and printers. Some have argued that the levy should also be retrospectively applied to cover the sale of PC and printer devices between the years 2001 – 2007.

Court ruling

In 4 conjoined cases, Germany’s Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) ruled that PCs and printers should be considered as reproduction devices under ss. 54 and 54a of the previous version of the German Copyright Act which was applicable until 31st December 2007. Consequently, a copyright levy should be applied to such devices (Az.: I ZR 162/10I ZR 28/11I ZR 29/11 und I ZR 30/11).

Judgment welcomed

The collecting society, VG Wort, welcomed the judgment and the fact that the BGH has now accepted that a levy should be applied under previous law to PCs and printers sold until 2007.

Sources: BGH press release from 3.7.2014; VG Wort press release from 3.7.2014

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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