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Cloud providers may have to pay a levy to account for private copying under MEP's plans

The European Commission should explore how a levy system to account for private copying within cloud computing could work, an MEP has recommended.

In a draft report on private copying levies (7-page / 146KB PDF) for the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee, French MEP Francoise Castex said that private copying within the cloud environment should be subject to levy. 

"Private copies of protected works made using cloud computing technology may have the same purpose as those made using traditional and/or digital recording media and materials," Castex said. She said that she "considers that these copies should be taken into account by the private copying compensation mechanisms". 

Castex called on the European Commission to "assess the impact on the private copying system of the use of cloud computing technology for the private recording and storage of protected works, so as to determine how these private copies of protected works should be taken into account by the private copying compensation mechanisms". 

Castex's plans were backed by a number of European authors and performers bodies, including the Society of Audiovisual Authors, the Federation of European Film Directors and the European Council of Artists.

However, Pirate Party MEP Christian Engstrom criticised the plans and said that he opposes the "very principle" copyright levies. "We should be reducing them, not increasing them," he said, according to a report by PC Advisor

Currently, some European countries allow the copying of material that a person legitimately owns, as long as that is for private use. Under the EU's Copyright Directive this is permitted as long as there is 'fair compensation' to the copyright holders. The EU's top court previously ruled that what constitutes 'fair compensation' must be determined by the "harm suffered by the author". Countries which allow private copying ensure this fair compensation by charging a levy on the media such as discs and media players that material is typically copied on to. 

Antonió Vitorino, a mediator appointed by the European Commission to facilitate industry discussion aimed at creating a consistent approach to copyright levies across the EU, earlier this year recommended, though, that clarifications be made to the EU's private copying regime so that copies consumers make for their private purposes and which are made "in the context of a service that has been licensed by rightholders" should not be deemed to "cause any harm that would require additional remuneration in the form of private copying levies". 

In her report, however, Castex said that a licensing system cannot be said to fairly compensate rightsholders for private copying. 

"The implementation of exclusive rights does not guarantee all rightholders, and in particular performance artists, a fair and proportional share of revenue arising from the use of their works," Castex said. "Despite permanent access to online works, downloading, storage and private copying for offline use is continuing." 

"A private copying levy system cannot therefore be replaced by a licencing system," she said. "As for online services, contractual authorisations cannot be allowed to prevail to the detriment of private copying exception arrangements."

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