Joint statement: US and Asian consumer device manufacturers are targeting the Visegrad4 countries to avoid private copying compensation

Some of the world’s biggest consumer device manufacturers are aggressively targeting the Visegrad Four countries in an effort to weaken national legislation or application of the existing legal framework on private copying.

European organisations and unions representing authors, performers, publishers and creative workers therefore call on governments and EU decision-makers to take a firm stand against this new attempt to undermine a system that has long benefitted European creators, culture and society.

The private copying compensation system, which exists in most European countries, including the V4, entails device manufacturers or importers paying a fair compensation that is calculated using market research on the private copying of creative works through the relevant media and devices. The system provides consumers with legal certainty when freely making personal copies of songs, movies and other creative works on their devices. It also does not affect in practice the retail price of devices.

As it stands, private copying compensation has contributed significantly to the remuneration of creators, and the funding of local cultural activities. Festivals, independent local bands, small film production companies – these are just some of the beneficiaries of a broad ranging system. Private copying compensation schemes contribute to fuelling grassroots culture, which eventually impacts the whole cultural sector and reduces the financial burden on Member States’ cultural policy.

The funds created from private copying compensation schemes have been instrumental in providing “first aid” support and a safety net for the most vulnerable creators, who are suffering from the devastating economic impact Covid-19 has had on the entire cultural and creative sector.

Apple, Huawei, LG, Samsung and Xiaomi were the biggest selling brands of mobile devices in Europe in 2018, including in Central and Eastern Europe. Although none of them are based in Europe, they are able to launch constant attacks through their trade association in Europe (Digital Europe), through whom they table unacceptable proposals that, if adopted, would deprive creators of their rightful compensation and diminish Europe’s cultural landscape. Their recent focus on the V4 countries has come through their local organisations.

The cultural and creative sector has embraced technology and constantly evolved its practices, including within the application of this crucial compensation scheme. The system evolves through technology and based on the flexible rules that EU law provides. The only archaic and undemocratic practice remains to be that of the giant manufacturers of consumer devices based outside the EU and constantly refusing to comply with EU directives and CJEU rulings requiring them to contribute to the remuneration of creators.

The aforementioned companies lobby governments to prevent adaptation of the legislation, delay agreements on the setting of tariffs for such compensation schemes, refuse the payment of set tariffs and hinder the functioning of the system through their distributors across Europe, including in the V4; or, in parallel, hide themselves behind the safe harbours of online market places to reach EU consumers directly, by-passing any and all EU regulation, including payment of private copy compensation.

Although satisfactory agreements have been reached in certain countries where the law is implemented properly, their attacks continue at political level to weaken the rules that oblige them to pay.

Weakening the current long-established system of private copy compensation would only serve the financial benefit of non-EU based manufacturers at the expense of European creators, the cultural sector and the economy as a whole.

Organisations and unions representing authors, performers, publishers and creative workers in Europe urge the European Commission, national authorities and MEPs from V4 countries to reject these outrageous demands with determination, and to defend European interests in this sector of high economic value by properly implementing national laws in the spirit of the EU directives and Court rulings.

The SAA is one out of 13 signatories. Download and read the full letter and background information here