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Germany: Rights-holders Want €36 'Piracy Tax' On All Smartphones

Posted by: , 13:30 AEST, Mon July 23, 2012

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Rights-holders in Germany make huge "piracy tax" demands from tech vendors, including a €36 on all phones sold in the country
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Image/Photo Credit: Robert Brook @ Flickr, CC

Groups representing Germany's rights-holders want to increase the 'piracy tax' on mobiles and smartphones to €36 (USD $43) per phone, claiming that as people may be using their phones to view pirated content, that this means they deserve to be paid for these activities which may or may not be happening. Not only that, the rights-holder groups are demanding payment to be retroactively dated back to 2008, a potential multi-million windfall for rights-holders, that would come out of the pocket of technology vendors.

The notion of a 'piracy tax' in Germany is not new. It is in effect a levy on the purchase of any equipment or media that has any links to piracy activities, including things like blank DVDs, USB storage and external hard-drives. However, the group that represents rights-holders, ZPUe (Zentralstelle für private Überspielungsrechte), wants levies to be updated for current technologies, including external drives that are now larger than 1TB. ZPUe wants €7 per external drive that's less than 1TB, and €9 for drives that are larger.

But it is likely that the demand for €36 for mobile phones could be seen as excessive by the group that represents tech vendors in this fight, Bitkom, especially since some of the cheaper smartphones may actually cost less than €36. And the demand for retroactive payments seem to suggest ZPUe is blaming tech vendors for their customer's usage habits that they have no control over, whereas the traditional notion of a piracy tax is one that's received directly from buyers and then passed onto rights-holders.

Critics also question where line will be drawn in terms of the piracy tax, whether non-storage accessories such as speakers and headphones or even computer monitors would also be taxed, as all are essential for viewing or listening to pirated content. There's also the issue of painting all buyers of technology under the same "pirates" brush.

GEMA, the music arm of ZPUe, also caused controversy recently by increasing the royalty payment rates for restaurants and nightclubs by up to 2000 percent, something that could permanently destroy the clubbing scene in Germany, critics say. GEMA also controversially had official YouTube music videos banned in the country due to a royalty dispute with the owners of YouTube, Google.


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