Private copying levy and distance selling

An action has been brought by a Dutch collecting society against a German company which aimed blank media sales websites at the Netherlands but had not paid the private- copying levy imposed on importers of such media under Dutch law. The Copyright Directive permits member states to allow the private copying of copyright works as long there is “fair compensation” for rights-holders. The European Court of Justice was asked to decide who was liable for paying the levy. It held that, while the final user carrying out copying was, in principle, responsible for paying fair compensation, member states could establish a private-copying levy chargeable to those who supplied the reproduction equipment and media as they could pass the amount of that levy on to final users. In a case of distance selling across different member states, it was for the member state imposing the levy where copying took place to ensure that the levy was paid. If fair compensation could not be recovered from the consumers, the national court had to interpret national law in order to allow it to be recovered from the person responsible for payment acting on a commercial basis.

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