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German private copy deal results in Apple device price hike

By | Published on Tuesday 5 January 2016


The retail price of iPhones and iPads in Germany increased six and seven euros respectively at the start of the year as part of a recent deal over the private copy levy in the country.

As much previously reported, copyright law in many European countries provides a levy for creators and content producers to compensate for the personal private copies consumers make of their work. So, in music, that means when people make copies of CDs they legitimately bought, such private copies being allowed under most copyright systems.

Traditionally the levies were charged on blank cassettes and CD-Rs, but as music consumption has shifted to digital devices a new approach has been required. Applying the charge to portable devices, especially smartphones and tablets that have many uses beyond consuming copied music and video, has been controversial, though such levies have been applied in some countries.

The German tech industry reached a deal on private copy levies with the country’s copyright owners late last year. The deal covers back payments back to 2008 on smartphones and 2012 on tablets, and will subsequently run until 2018.

Despite the settlement, most consumer electronics companies continue to oppose device levies, arguing that, as digital entertainment becomes increasingly streaming and subscription-based, fewer consumers will be making private copies of previously bought content anyway.

Apple confirmed to the Associated Press on Sunday that price increases applied to iPhones and iPads in Germany last weekend were a direct result of the private copy levy, with the six-to-seven euro fee passed directly onto the customer.

The private copy right doesn’t exist in the UK, of course, even though consumers have long made copies of the CDs they buy. The government attempted to introduce the private copy exception without a levy, but the music industry successfully fought off that proposal in court, on the basis the government’s plan did not comply with European copyright law.

In theory the government could have another go at introducing the exception, either with a levy, or by better arguing the case for no levy (so to comply with European rules), though the Intellectual Property Office last year confirmed that this was not currently on its agenda.