Almodovar, Cruz stump for copyright levies

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BRUSSELS -- Spanish screen icons Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz appealed Wednesday to the European Commission not to scrap the copyright levies on consumer electronics that help support artists across Europe.

They were joined by filmmakers Bertrand Tavernier, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, and a host of artists' groups in launching the "Culture First" campaign. The coalition of lobbies includes European authors' group GESAC, international authors' group CISAC, European film directors group FERA, international performing artists' group GIART, the International Confederation of Music Publishers ICMP/CIEM, independent music label group Impala and European actors' federation EuroFIA.

Cruz said the move to lift the levies -- worth ?560 million ($700 million) in 2005 -- would deny artists a vital revenue stream. "The money received by performers from the private copying levy amounts to a considerable part of our income, and it is a great incentive to our artistic work," she said.

The levies compensate artists for private copies of DVDs, CDs, books and other media products. They are paid by such consumer electronics companies as Apple, Siemens, Nokia and Sony on goods ranging from iPods and DVD players to mobile phones and PCs.

Almodovar said the reason given to scrap the levies -- that they hampered IT companies developing new products -- effectively downgraded the artistic community.

"The content industry -- that is to say, the creative community -- provides most of the material which consumers want to copy. Without this content, consumers would only be able to make copies of their own work," he said.

The EC wants to streamline the system of compensation to rightsholders, while helping ICT companies and equipment producers in bringing new and innovative products and services to market.
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