Monday, 15 July 2013

Who pays the bill for private copies? - CJEU judgment in Case C-521/11 Amazon v Austro-Mechana

Last Thursday, 11 July 2013, the Court of Justice of the EU handed down its judgment in Case C-521/11 Amazon v Austro-Mechana. The case concerned the 'fair compensation' to be paid to authors of copyrighted works (such as music, books and films) through a private copying levy on the first sale of recording media such as blank CDs and DVDs. For a summary of the case and of the Opinion of A-G Mengozzi, I refer to an earlier post on this blog ('Fair compensation for copying').

The CJEU holds that the indiscriminate collection of a private copying levy on the first sale of recording media may, under conditions, be compatible with EU law. Accordingly:

'34 It is for the national court to verify, in the light of the particular circumstances of each national system and the limits imposed by Directive 2001/29, whether the practical difficulties justify such a system of financing fair compensation and, if so, whether the right to reimbursement of any levies paid in cases other than that under Article 5(2)(b) of Directive 2001/29 is effective and does not make repayment of those levies excessively difficult.

35 In the present case, the referring court must verify, first of all, whether the indiscriminate application of a private copying levy on the placing on the market, for commercial purposes and for consideration, of recording media suitable for reproduction is warranted by sufficient practical difficulties in all cases. In that context, account must be taken of the scope, the effectiveness, the availability, the publicisation and the simplicity of use of the a priori exemption mentioned by Austro-Mechana in its written observations and at the hearing.

36 Secondly, the referring court must also verify that the scope, the effectiveness, the availability, the publicisation and the simplicity of use of the right to reimbursement allow the correction of any imbalances created by the system in order to respond to the practical difficulties observed.'

See also the Court's press release regarding this case. For a summary and comment on another recent CJEU judgment on private copying levies, i.e. Joined Cases C-457/11 to C-460/11, VG Wort v Kyocera, please consult the blog of our colleagues at the Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance.

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