INTERVIEW WITH MONIQUE GOYENS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, BEUC : PRIVATE COPYING: 'THE SYSTEM IS MEDIEVAL, IT'S A TITHE'.

 
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Following the presentation by French Socialist MEP Francoise Castex of a draft resolution on private copying, Monique Goyens, director-general of BEUC (the European Consumers' Organisation) has called for a more ambitious reform of the fees taken from different recording media in 23 member states in exchange for consumers' right to copy protected works. aThe resolution will be discussed by representatives of the political groups in the European Parliament on 19 November in Strasbourg, and the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) will vote on the matter in mid-December.

You have been critical of this royalties system for years - why?

The fees, which vary greatly among European countries, create differences on the internal market. For example, for an iPod Touch, the fee varies from 1.42 in Latvia to 19.40 in Sweden. Nonetheless, the price of an iPod is not necessarily proportional to the tax. The industry smooths out the prices between different countries, and therefore some consumers pay too much.

At the same time, collective management companies are strongly criticising Spain, which has replaced fees for private copy with a fee paid by the state, saying that the price of recording equipment has not fallen...

Eurostat [the EU's statistics office - Ed] does not agree with this, because it says that prices have fallen in Spain. Clearly, the collective management companies have most to lose in this situation. They make the most money, not the artists, and the system is outdated - I would even say medieval, since it is a tithe.

What solutions would you like to see?

In the short term, the fees should be harmonised, at least within the internal market. Currently, they are a barrier to online trade, where there is a real potential for growth: not so much because prices are different, but because the systems are different. Online retailers can refuse to sell equipment subject to fees from one country to another in the Union, because they don't know in which country they should charge the fees. In the very short term - and Castex does not say this - consumers must be told how much they pay. Next, there should be no fees where damage is very minimal, for example when the consumer changes the file format. There must also be a responsible approach to multi-purpose devices.

But authors, artists and directors also seem very attached to the system...

In the long term, both artists and consumers will be much better off without the fees. Studies show that 1.8...

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