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Monday, 10 December 2007

Computer printers not liable for copyright levy, rules BGH

In a press release of 7 December 2007, the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) has reported that its First Civil Senate, which is responsible for copyright law (among other things), gave a ruling on 6 December 2007 that the legal duty under § 54(a)(1)(1) of the German Copyright Act to pay remuneration to copyright holders for technology capable of copying does not apply to normal, everyday computer printers.

The decision (case number: I ZR 94/05) is not yet available in its entirety but, in its press release, the court acknowledges that computer printers can be used to produce unlawful copies of protected works. The court also emphasises that whoever uses a computer printer often has a legal right to do so, i.e. when printing content from the internet for personal use or when printing information from a CD-ROM where the act of printing is already covered by the licence agreement. Case law on the use of photocopiers - in respect of which a levy is imposed - cannot be applied in analogy. The claimant, VG Wort, which represents copyright holders and authors in copyright matters, has issued a press release in which it calls the decision a “sell-out of copyright law”.

The IPKat thanks Birgit Clark for digging this up and translating it for him. He wonders whether there may be a question of double-accounting at stake, if the same acts of private copying that would be covered by a printer levy would also be covered by the computer to which the printer is attached. But Merpel says, these machines are so clever these days: they can print, scan, photocopy and do goodness-knows-what-else. Perhaps the time is ripe for extending the levy to cover them too.


Ossi said...

"The court also emphasises that whoever uses a computer printer often has a legal right to do so, i.e. when printing content from the internet for personal use"

Isn't that really the point of the levy, i.e., compensate for copying for personal use?

Strange that the court found that to be a factor against the imposition of a levy.

Jeremy said...

Our good friend and scholar Alexander v. Mühlendahl has emailed us to add: "You may know or may not know that common practice in German courts, including the Federal Court of Justice, Germany's third instance court (appeals on points of law with leave to appeal) is that judgments are delivered at the end of the oral hearing, and it may take weeks or months before the written judgment is available. The Bundesgerichtshof proceeds in this fashion; but in very important cases they issue a press release the day of the judgment, thus satisfying the public's curiosity.

Therefore, the judgment below about which you report on the basis of the press release may not become available until some two or three months from now".

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