November 21, 2012, 9:15 AM — Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Dell and Imation are suing the Dutch government over new levies on hard disks, smartphones, tablets and MP3 players that are meant to compensate the music and movie industries for losses caused by home copying.
"The companies now hold the State liable for all damages caused by the levies," the hardware vendors said in a joint news release on Wednesday. Trade association FIAR Consumer Electronics, which has as members companies such as Samsung, Sharp, Sony and LG, is also a party to the litigation. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the District Court of The Hague.
The entertainment industry estimates lost income of ¬40 million, which is much too high, according to the hardware companies. "That amount is excessive and completely unfounded," they said. The ¬40 million also incorporates damages for illegally downloaded music and movies which, according to the companies, legally cannot be recovered by a levy on devices. Furthermore the Dutch government established a levy on all devices including devices for professional use that are not used for private copying, they said.
The companies are also suing the Dutch Home Copying Foundation (Stichting de Thuiskopie), which is responsible for the collection of the levies, demanding that the foundation pay collected levies back to the hardware makers.
The Dutch government will introduce a levy of up to ¬5 (US$6.40) for devices and discs in January 2013 to comply with a European regulation.
An 8 GB iPad for example will become ¬5 more expensive as will all laptops and PCs as well as smartphones and HDD recorders with more than 160GB of storage. Devices with a lower storage capacity will have a lower levy, with the lowest being a ¬0.03 levy per DVD or CD-R.
The lawsuit comes just two days after Dell, HP and Imation sent a letter of concern to the State Secretary for Security and Justice, Fred Teeven, that was also signed by Fujitsu, Intel, Nokia, Panasonic, RIM, Samsung and Digital Europe. Acer, a party to the court action Wednesday, did not sign the letter.
Implementing the levy will harm the companies' ability to serve customers in the Netherlands and raise the cost of digital technology, the companies said in the letter. "Furthermore, it will cause trade barriers and serious disincentives to operating logistics hubs and distribution centers in the Netherlands," they said, adding that they have serious doubts about the legality of the decision.