Private copy levy and refurbished devices
Published on 25th Nov 2021
On July 1, 2021, a decision by the committee for the private copy levy (“Commission pour la rémunération de la copie privée”) came into force and established a specific rate scale for a private copying levy on refurbished multimedia mobile phones and multimedia touch tablets.
1. What is the private copy levy?
In a nutshell, works protected by copyright may only be reproduced with the authorization of their author or of the person holding intellectual property rights or related rights on the content (producers, artists, etc.). These persons are referred to as rights holders and generally receive royalties as a compensation for said reproduction. As an exception, the author's authorization is not required if the reproduction of these works is made from a legal source and for private use only. This is for example the case when an individual records music on his/her phone or tablet from a lawful source for his/her personal use.
In order to indemnify the rights holders for this exception, the Intellectual Property Code introduced a levy to be paid by some operators: this is the private copy levy.
This levy is calculated via a scale by category of recording media, based to its storage capacity.
2. What actors?
• The committee for the private copy levy (Commission pour la rémunération de la copie privée) decides which media are subject to the private copy levy and the scale of the levy. Its decisions are published in the French Official Journal and are enforceable within one month of the date of the decision (provided that the committee's chairman has not requested a second deliberation).
• Manufacturers, importers or companies making intra-Community acquisitions of recording media for private use are liable for paying the private copy levy. These actors generally pass the levy collected on the final price of the good, i.e. on the price paid by the consumer.
• Copie France is the organization collecting the levy.
• The levy is intended for rights holders (authors, producers, artists, etc.) on behalf of whom several collective management organizations act (they are then members or have given a mandate to Copie France).
3. What happened?
• 2020: Copie France sued several reconditioning companies (for payment of remuneration on refurbished phones).
• January 2021: A bill aimed for reducing the environmental footprint of digital technology in France is adopted by the French Senate. This bill provided that private copy levy is not due on refurbished devices.
• 6 June 2021: The committee for the private copy levy published a private copy levy scale applicable to refurbished phones and tablets, which came into force on 1 July 2021.
• June 2021: Debates in the French National Assembly (one of the two Parliament’s chamber) on the bill for reducing the environmental footprint of digital technology in France. It is finally decided that a private copy levy on refurbished devices is due, but at a different rate from that applicable to new devices.
In addition, the French government undertook to provide Parliament, by December 2022 at the latest, with a study on the economic impacts of private copy levy on second-hand products, and on the possible development scenarios.
• This bill was adopted as is by the Senate (the second Parliament Chamber) on November 2, 2021 and the law the published on the Journal Officiel on November 16.
4. What happened since
• The refurbishing industry is requesting the French government to compensate the actors of the reconditioning industry. The granting of a 10 Euros cheque to consumers buying reconditioned products was mentioned for a time but now seems to have been abandoned.
• Reconditioning companies and UFC que Choisir (a consumer association) are challenging the legality of the decision of the committee for the private copy levy before the French administrative courts.
UFC Que Choisir first took action through a fast track proceeding. On July 8, the French High Administrative Court (Conseil d'Etat) rejected UFC Que Choisir's action on the grounds that the conditions for a fast track proceeding were not met.
Actions continue on the merits of the case.
• The new scale is already in effect.