EU delays copyright levy reform

Decision dismays techology companies

LONDON — The European Commission confirmed Wednesday that it has postponed a decision on whether to reform existing copyright levies on the private copying of audio and audiovisual works.

“The Commission has decided that more reflection is required on this complex issue,” EC spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told a routine European Union press briefing.

The Copyright Levies Reform Alliance, representing the technology companies lobby in the EU, responded with dismay to the news.

“European industry is deeply disturbed by the European Commission’s apparent about-face on the planned reform of copyright levies,” CLRA said in a statement.

Technology companies argue the current levy scheme, which developed in an era of music and video cassettes, is not compatible with a digital age.

“It seems the commission has chosen to drop the recommendation on levies that was due to be adopted next week following 11th hour interference from France,” CLRA added, referring to a letter sent to the EC by French prime minister Dominique de Villepin defending the levies.

EU internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy was to have announced a series of reform proposals this month. Ahrenkilde said no new timetable had been set.

She denied suggestions EC president Jose Manuel Barroso had been pressured to freeze the process by de Villepin’s letter.

Music and film artists from across Europe have also lobbied the EC on the issue.

In November, a group of prominent directors, including Pedro Almodovar and Ken Loach, sent an open letter to the Commission urging them to retain the levies.

Some 20 EU member states currently apply the copyright levy laws set out in the EC’s 2001 Directive on Copyright. Britain, Luxembourg, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus opted out of directive.