January 23 2012
Parliament has finally adopted new legislation to reform Lithuania's private copying levy. The president approved the new regime on the condition that the government will immediately conduct monitoring of the existing law and ensure a clear and simple levy return system. The relevant provisions will come into force on March 1 2012.
In 2003 Lithuania introduced a private copying levy for blank media and reprographic reproduction services. Since then the Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for copyright protection policy, has made several unsuccessful attempts to modify the system in order to incorporate new technological developments and increase revenue.
The amounts raised in Lithuania have been low in comparison with those in other EU countries. From 2006 to 2008, on average, the private copying levy raised around €350,600 and the reprographic reproduction levy raised around €18,000. The proponents of the new law considered that this did not represent fair compensation under Article 5(2)(a)(b) of the EU Information Society Directive (2001/29/EC) and contradicted the three-step test in Article 2(5).
The ministry's previous proposals were generally blocked at government level, as was the case with the Bill on Copyright and Related Rights (957-01), which was drafted in 2009 but was never debated in Parliament (for further details please see "Draft copyright reforms propose private copying levy"). However, on this occasion the creative industries found parliamentary support. A near-identical proposal was submitted on April 30 2010 and was finally adopted on December 21 2011.
The new law imposes the levy on blank analogue and digital media, including all types of CD, minidisc, Blu-Ray disc, memory card, universal serial bus chip, solid-state drive disk and hard drive disk. However, it also covers personal reproduction devices with memory and recording functions (eg, CD and DVD-burning devices, home theatre equipment, MP3 players, hard disks, personal computers and mobile phones) and reprographic reproduction devices (eg, photocopying equipment). As before, the levy applies to photocopying services provided in Lithuania.
The levy is payable by any party that either sells the aforementioned equipment or media or provides photocopying services to natural persons in Lithuania.
Presumably in order to reflect the case law of the European Court of Justice, the new law introduces a levy return mechanism. In a change to the previous system, this is available to all persons that acquire blank media or equipment for professional purposes (ie, any purpose that isclearly unconnected with private purposes). As previously, the levy is also refundable to people with disabilities and when blank media and equipment are exported from the Lithuanian territory.
One-quarter of the revenue from the levy will be allocated to programmes for creative activities and the protection of copyright and related rights.
The annexes to the law set out the relevant tariffs and a list of blank media and equipment to which the levy applies. The varying tariffs mainly reflect the memory capacity of blank media and equipment.
Once the law enters into force, it is expected to raise approximately €800,000 annually. However, it remains to be seen whether the new regime will meet the expectations of the law's supporters and the creative industries.
(2) See Padawan SL v SGAE (467/08, October 21 2010), in which it was stated that: "The indiscriminate application of the private copying levy to all types of digital reproduction equipment, devices and media, including cases in which such equipment is acquired by persons other than natural persons for purposes clearly unrelated to private copying, is incompatible with the directive."
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