5 questions if you haven’t followed the heated debate around private copying

The subject of private copying has been in the news for a few days. If you don’t know what this device is or why it is being talked about right now, here are some explanations to get you up to speed.

What’s going on ?

A former Minister of Culture, Jack Lang,

« very angry “To the idea that” want to question the law which is one of the bases of our protection of the rights of authors and artists “. The current tenant of rue de Valois, , who also takes the floor to explain that ” the private copying levy is crucial and makes it possible to remunerate creators ».

For those who follow political news, private copying has become an important subject in recent days, accentuated by the publication on May 29 of a column in the Journal du Dimanche, signed by more than 1,600 artists. The challenge ? An upcoming debate in Parliament on the environmental footprint of digital technology. More specifically, the question of whether we include refurbished phones in private copying.

In Parliament, MEPs voted for private copying provisions to exclude conditioned devices and request a report on the functioning of the device. // Source: Wikimedia / CC / NonOmnisMoriar

Indeed, a text of law under examination includes an article which proposes to modify the code of the intellectual property to leave the field of the royalty for private copying the recording media – such as smartphones – which are lost. already paid for the first time, when they were placed on the market as new devices. It’s about not retaxing them when they are reconditioned.

For the signatories, this article of law opposes ecology to culture and seems to have been drafted by this new sector. ” Sellers of refurbished products refuse to contribute to a virtuous system », Denounces the forum, which points to the maneuvers of the market leader, Backmarket, to exempt the sector and thus offer more attractive prices – or recover for its benefit the sum provided for private copying.

What is private copying?

What is called private copying, or private copying levy, is a mechanism that was set up in France in 1985 and which remains operational today. This is an exception to copyright that allows the public to make, as its name suggests, a private copy of a work in a family setting. For example, recording a film which is shown on TV falls within this framework.

This device was installed on the grounds that this exception to copyright (registering a cultural work for oneself) constitutes de facto economic prejudice for artists, towards whom they can do nothing. To compensate for this shortfall – the beneficiaries do not receive anything when a private copy is made – a debit is therefore made on the media allowing these recordings.


In the world before, you burned your music to discs and the private copying levy was meant to compensate for this exception to copyright. But today ? // Source: Jamie Henderson

Roselyne Bachelot argues that in addition to ensuring part of the remuneration of creators, this provision supports ” strongly cultural activities ” in France. In the gallery, it is argued that 12,000 events benefited – ” 64% of music festivals are partially funded by this mechanism “- and 200,000 people” are supported in their work Through him.

This puncture is modest compared to the overall price of a device, but it is mandatory and concerns a wide range of equipment. The scale is established by a commission, which determines which media are taxed and in what proportions. At the rate of uses and technological developments, some devices are no longer taxed, while others do.

What is the status of refurbished devices?

Today, the levy on private copying is organized through article L311-4 of the intellectual property code. The law sets the rules, starting with determining what is the operative event that triggers this levy. Thus, there must be a circulation in France of recording media. However, refurbished devices have, de facto, already been placed on the market.

The law also adds ” that it cannot bear remuneration for acts of private copying which have already given rise to financial compensation ”, Which removes this equipment from the device. In this regard, the Secretary of State for Digital Transition and Electronic Communications, Cédric O, indicated on January 12 “ that at this stage, the repackaged goods are not subject to the remuneration for private copying ».

A refurbished iPhone at Apple // Source: Apple

However, the signatories of the forum point to an issue: given the rise of refurbished smartphones, which according to them represent 15% of phones purchased in France, is there not a risk that the sums collected decrease gradually, if the clientele favors second-hand mobiles which have been refurbished, instead of focusing on new models?

« Our whole economy is destined to become green. Creating this exception for a sector of activity that is destined to become the norm, is to condemn in the long term one of the pillars of the financing of our cultural exception. They write. And to add, for all practical purposes, that ” it’s not a tax that goes into the state coffers, it’s an original system that finances cultural life in France ».

What is the evolution of private copying?

Over the years, the private copying levy has shown a certain adaptability, even when cultural practices have evolved a lot. For example, who still really records music with their smartphone to keep it? This is consumed more in the form of an audio stream, with streaming. The fact remains that smartphones are subject to it.

This acclimatization can be seen in the 2020 annual report of the Commission for the Control of Authorities and Neighboring Rights Management Bodies. It appears that the amount of remuneration for private copying is increasing. In 2016, it was around 275 million euros. It rose to just over 285 million the following year, then 312 million in 2018. The increase over this period is 13.7%.

For 2019, the amount is lower, at 260 million euros. Overall, however, the royalty has developed favorably – its value in 1986 was “only” 36 million euros. Until recently, the plate has been changed to include “dumb phones”. The question now arises as to whether repackaging should also be included in the loop, as the market is growing and becoming an economic issue.

And now ?

Basically, the article of law does not call into question the principle of the private copying levy. Rather, it is a question of legally confirming the exclusion of refurbished devices from the device, which is already the case in practice – and clearly, the existence and development of the refurbished market have not prevented the revenue from the royalty from being released. ‘evolve upwards.

However, the debate around the private copying levy is relaunching a whole debate, which has existed for a long time, on the functioning of the commission. This is what a deputy, Éric Bothorel, points out in an amendment that he had adopted as part of the bill on the environmental footprint of digital technology. His wish ? That we produce a report on the subject.

« Faced with the regular widening of the tax base and the lack of transparency in the functioning of the commission for the remuneration of private copying, it is legitimate for Parliament to take up this issue and ask the Government for a report on it. subject », Explains the elected official. In addition, he points to the imbalance in the composition of this commission, which favors the beneficiaries.

This wobbly balance of power between the members of the commission (12 votes for rights holders, 6 for manufacturers and importers of media, 6 for associations) has long been a criticism against it, because it tends to go towards a ” always more ”, even though the uses are no longer the same: strictly speaking, you no longer store music on your smartphone.

This alignment of the planets is therefore not, obviously, very favorable to private copying in its current mode of operation: an article of law proposes to exclude reconditioned devices and an amendment calls for a report to “ objectify the situation ​ »,

. And, in fact, this could bring to light the dysfunctions of the current mechanism and its discrepancy with regard to uses.

Photo credit of the one:
Frerk Meyer

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