Germans clash over authors' fees on CD burners

Authors' rights groups want to assess a flat fee on CD burners sold in Germany, which would help compensate copyright holders whose work is duplicated without their permission. Under a long-standing system in Germany, recording and duplicating devices such as tape recorders and photocopying machines are subject to the fees, which are distributed via the authors' rights guilds.

The IT industry association BITKOM (Bundesverband Informationswirtschaft, Telekommunikation und Neue Medien e.V.) said in a statement that it was unable to reach an agreement over the fees with the group ZPU (Zentralstelle für private Überspielungsrechte), which represents artists, musicians, and authors.

A major sticking point, BITKOM said, was that two authors' rights guilds, VG Wort, which represents writers, and VG Bild-Kunst, which represents photographers and visual artists, refused to be bound by the negotiations and plan to demand a separate set of fees. According to BITKOM, the industry needs to come to a single agreement over the fees.

Spokespersons for ZPU, VG Wort, and VG Bild-Kunst could not be immediately reached for comment.

In November, Hewlett-Packard GmbH (HP), acting on behalf of all CD burner vendors in Germany, agreed to a settlement under which each new device sold would be subject to a 12 mark ($10.50) fee. HP said in a statement it is now retracting that agreement. That puts the matter in the hands of a Stuttgart court, which is expected to rule next month on a lawsuit filed against HP by ZPU.

An ongoing separate set of negotiations seeks to establish whether intellectual property fees can be assessed on PCs and other devices.

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