VIENNA, March 17 Austria's supreme court has
ruled against Amazon.com in a decade-old dispute over a
national levy on sales of blank data storage products, ordering
it to pay the fee aimed at supporting musicians and other
The case arose after copyright collection agency Austro
Mechana presented a bill in 2004 to Amazon of nearly 1.9 million
euros ($2.1 million) for blank media such as cassette tapes and
CDs it sold in Austria.
Following the final ruling by Austria's court, Amazon must
report the number and type of media storage devices it sold in
Austria from 2002 and subsequently pay the levy.
An Austro Mechana spokesman estimated that Amazon may have
to pay a "double digit million euro" amount. The final sum will
be determined by the court after Amazon provides its records.
Amazon did not reply to requests for comment.
The e-commerce giant took the case to Austria's supreme
court, arguing that the levy violates EU law, which then asked
the European Court of Justice to interpret whether this was in
fact the case.
The Luxembourg-based court ruled in favour of the private
copying levy in 2013, but it also made clear that EU law does
not allow the levy to be collected in cases where the intended
use is clearly not the making of private copies.
More than twenty European copyright laws include private
copying levies, also known as blank media taxes, covering the
sales of media devices. They date back to the audio cassette and
video tape era, but now cover all manner of digital devices.
In contrast, Britain and the United States offer some forms
of "private use exceptions" which allow consumers to make
personal copies of digital or analogue music recordings without
infringing the creator's copyright.
The artists’ collection agency distributes half of the levy
income to individual artists including musicians, authors and
film producers and half of it to Austrian cultural projects.
The spokesman said the agency was prepared to have to wait
several more years before they receive payments from Amazon.
Major electronics makers argue that technology changes such
as the growth of streaming media and video music services make
the Austrian laws tied to storing media on local devices
outdated and they long have called for such up-front levies to
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Additional reporting by Eric
Auchard; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)