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Study: Europeans pay double tax on Net music

Business Software Alliance says multiple levies on copy-protected downloads should be scrapped.

European consumers are being forced to pay usage rights on legal copy-protected music downloads multiple times because of outdated private copy levies, according to a study.

The Business Software Alliance issued a report Thursday urging that the extra taxation that most European countries have added to music downloads be scrapped.

The BSA said the rise in online content protected by digital rights management (DRM) technology makes the need for private copy levies obsolete. These levies were originally designed as a tax on people making private copies of tapes and CDs they had bought.

But online content is increasingly DRM-protected. Under DRM, things such as music downloads carry a royalty at the point of purchase, so a percentage of the payment goes directly to artists and labels.

"With DRM technology's expanding role in the market, levies have become a superfluous double tax on consumers," Francisco Mingorance, director of public policy in Europe for the BSA, said in a statement. "Levies were designed to compensate for unpoliceable private copying. But with DRM, the rationale for levies disappears."

These levies don't apply to the United Kingdom, but most of Europe is forced to pay for usage rights through taxes imposed on their PC and music-playing equipment.

"Lawmakers cannot ignore that private copy levies are increasingly obsolete in the digital age," Mingorance said.

"Governments have an opportunity to bring real consumer benefits by applying the European Copyright Directive rules and phasing out the outdated levies system," he added.

Andy McCue of Silicon.com reported from London.