Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

McCreevy’s ‘simple wish’ for EU-wide copyright deal

Charlie has spoken. EU Internal Market commissioner Charlie McCreevy has decided it’s time for peace talks in the long-running barney between electronics companies and musical-rights societies over copyright levies. The row, as the former minister for finance would probably wearily …

Fri, May 30, 2008, 09:51

   

Charlie has spoken. EU Internal Market commissioner Charlie McCreevy has decided it’s time for peace talks in the long-running barney between electronics companies and musical-rights societies over copyright levies.

The row, as the former minister for finance would probably wearily concur, has turned into something of a screaming match.

On one side, you have companies such as Philips, Nokia, Apple and Hewlett-Packard, making products which can be used to copy artists’ work. On the other, you have the collection agencies representing these artists looking to get paid.

The issue is contentious because of how these copyright levies are dealt with in the 20 EU states in which such levies are imposed.

Initially introduced on blank audio and video tapes, copyright levies have been subsequently imposed on a wide range of electronic devices, including printers and MP3 players.

Naturally, the electronics companies have resisted the imposition of these levies at every turn, claiming a levy would increase prices and thus decrease sales.

All attempts to make both sides see sense on this issue have led nowhere.

McCreevy’s own efforts in 2006 also failed, after the French government rebelled against his plans to harmonise these levies.

Now, the commissioner has come to the conclusion that a Forum for Collecting Societies and Industry may be the best way forward.

“I have a simple wish. I would like this hearing to be the start of a process through which the main partners can sit down and calmly discuss a number of issues,” said McCreevy at a public meeting in Brussels this week.

The move was broadly welcomed by the European Information and Communications Technology Industry Association (EICTA), the group representing various digital technology companies. EICTA director-general Mark McGann said they wanted a “fair and balanced system”, adding, “we don’t want to talk about doing away with levies any more”.

Calls and emails to Irish collection agency Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) seeking a comment on the commissioner’s plans were not returned at the time of going to press.