- This is an English version of the post “Ipad y canon digital. La historia (no) se repite”, which aims to provide non Spanish readers with a general overview on the private copying levy in Spain.-
The Directive 2001/29 of the European Parliament and of the Council, on the harmonization of certain aspects of copyright and related rights, entitled Member States to adopt exceptions and limitations to the exclusive right of the author to authorise or prohibit the copy of its work by any third person. Among the possible limitations envisaged by the Directive, any Member State would permit the reproduction of a work on any medium made by any natural person for private use and for non-commercial purposes, on condition that the author receives a fair compensation.
So Spain did, as many other European countries, incorporating into its legislation both the limit of the reproduction right and the compensation to the author. Thus, in Spain it is considered fair use the copy of works without the permission of their authors on condition that (i) they have been already published and (ii) there are no lucrative purposes on it. As compensation to the author for the lost income by means of private reproduction, the Spanish legislation introduced a private copying levy (“canon digital”) to be incorporated in all the products and devices capable of reproduce protected works, such as CD´s, DVD´s, scanners or photocopiers.
The Spanish society has consistently reacted against the fee on the grounds of two main reasons; (i) the indiscriminate character of the fee, and (ii) the obscure management of the funds by SGAE (the Spanish management entity entitled to deal with copyright and related rights):
(i) Consumers and manufacturers have complained about the unfair and indiscriminate character of a fee that applies to all the devices and products able to reproduce protected works, either the user makes a private copy or not. As continuously said, charging the fee on these products and devices is like fining drivers in advance, supposing all of them will commit a traffic violation.
(ii) The second aspect that bears in the mind of Spanish consumers is the modus operandi of SGAE. This entity is deeply criticized due to its unclear management. Although the official data has not been revealed, the media echoed that just the mere 6% of the total amount of the funds collected by SGAE finally falls on its affiliates.
There is also a third element consisting on the circumstance that pursuant to Spanish Law, the software may not be privately copied. As a consequence, paradoxically, one of the most damaged industries does not receive a fair compensation in such concept.
Contrary to the majority opinion of the Spanish society, which gathered more than a million signatures against the fee at the time the Government extended it to some other digital devices, the law was passed at the Congress. In fact, the fee was added to some other devices formerly free of it, thus, from the 1st of January, 2008, mobile phones, USB sticks and mp3/mp4 players were charged with the fee, so that any consumer who buy one of these gadgets has to pay an extra amount in concept of fee, either makes a private copy of a copyright material or not.
From my point of view, there is no debate about compensating or not the author of a work for the lost income by means of private copy. Experts, consumers and manufactures agree that the author must be compensated for every private copy, however they also consider that the fee is not the best way to proceed and SGAE is not the proper entity to deal with its management. Anyway, considering the global situation nowadays, this matter ought to be analysed into its relevant context due to the European dimension of the matter.