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Two very controversial decisions (or lack of) out of Europe today, both related to digital media:
— The EU Commission has suddenly backed away from plans to reform the copyright levies system prevalent there, which allows an extra charge on iPods and blank CDs. Now electronics manufacturers threatened legal action on this to force EU. Artist rights groups in most European countries charge copyright fees on blank discs, data storage and music and video players.
On Wednesday, the commission said it needed “more reflection” on a complex issue, denying that it was pulling the plan under pressure from the French government. The Copyright Levies Reform Alliance – which represents companies from the technology and recording industries – said the decision not to act now effectively kills the reform for the next three years. CLRA spokesman Mark MacGann told reporters that the industry wanted legal certainty because manufacturers cannot sell goods across Europe as the same price. The levy adds 2 euros ($2.65) to the cost of an iPod 30GB in Finland and 90 euros ($119.39) in Spain, he said. Only the U.K., Ireland and Luxembourg do not impose any such levies.
— Also, the European Parliament on Wednesday agreed to a proposed reform of the Television Without Frontiers directive, effectively backing an amendment legalizing product placement across Europe. Under the amendment, product placement would be banned from news and current affairs programs, children’s programs and documentaries, but permitted in movies, series and sports broadcasts. Also part of the directive, there were fears that “TV-like” services such as mobile phone clips and online video blogs would be subject to the same burden of regulation as traditional TV. While both will be subject to many of the same rules