Euro directors join battle for copyright levy


BRUSSELS -- Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Lars von Trier, Pedro Almodovar and other film directors on Monday appealed to the European Commission to maintain the copyright levy imposed on consumer electronics.

In an open letter, the directors urged the European Union's executive authority not to abolish the levy, imposed since the 1960s, which aims to compensate artists for the private copying of audio and audiovisual works.

"Creators should have the right to be fairly compensated for their work when it is being reproduced," they said. "While consumers have the ability to copy films, film directors should be able to exercise their right to perceive a compensation for such usage."

The EC is due to formally unveil reforms of the levy before year's end. The draft proposals currently circulating within the EC do not call for an immediate end to the levy, but make it clear that it could and should be scrapped within a few years. EC officials argue that the levy hampers IT companies developing new products and is an archaic throwback to an era of cassette recorders and photocopiers.

The letter -- also signed by Costa Gavras, Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne, and Nanni Moretti -- says that efforts to transform the levy into a digital rights mechanism (DRM) have so far failed.

"We fail to see how DRM will be a substitute to this right whose implementation is € 560 million ($712.3 million) a year to the creative industries in Europe," they said. "In the absence of effective technology systems, there is no other alternative for right holders to be compensated. Free availability of content should not be a business model encouraged by the ICT industry to support the roll out of digital technologies at the expense of our creations."

The levy compensates artists for private copies of DVDs, CDs, books and other media products. It is 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. However, it is currently applied in just 20 of the EU's 25 member countries, and the rates vary widely amongst them.

The directors said the levy was meager compared with the revenues of the IT industry, but was vital for the European film sector, struggling to raise finance. "Even if the compensation that we receive in relation to the private copying is limited, it still represents an important source of remuneration," they said.