The ruling was handed down by the EU Court of Justice Thursday, following a decision by German copyright administrator VG Wort to seek sales figures for printers sold in Germany dating back to 2001. VG Wort also petitioned the court to get more information on the capabilities of computers and printers sold by Canon, Epson, HP, Kyocera, Fujitsu and Xerox.
The administrator didn’t stop at that. It also asked the court for an order requiring Xerox, Epson and Kyocera to pay restitution. If WG Wort has its way, the companies will have to pay a retroactive tax on all devices sold between 2001 and 2007.
After a few appeals, the cases ended up before the German High Court, which backed some aspects of WG Wort’s appeal but also asked the EU Court of Justice for clarification of EU copyright legislation.
The EU Court of Justice ruled that EU law indeed requires member states to compensate authors for inevitable copyright infringement from copiers and printers, Courthouse News reports. However, since the law took effect in 2003, it was not retroactive and the court rejected WG Wort’s request for compensation dating back to 2001.
The actual levels of compensation were left to member states to decide. The court ruled that states are free to put in place a levy chargeable to persons in possession of equipment on which the reproduction was made. The levy would then be passed down to consumers.
It is still unclear whether member states will actually put the court’s ruling to good use, but given the economic situation, there is a good chance governments will use the opportunity to raise a bit more cash.