Techdirt has an interesting piece on an attempt by a Belgian collection society to impose levies on Hewlett-Packard’s multifunction printers—computer printers that include a built-in scanner and photocopying functionality. After negotiations between collection society Reprobel and Hewlett-Packard Belgium fell through, HPB sued Reprobel to get legal clarification on what the amount of said levies should be.
Apparently the reason for the taxes is that such devices could be used to scan and duplicate paper books, and a similar levy is already imposed on standalone photocopiers based on “potential harm.” Reprobel wants a new levy based on “actual harm,” which brings to mind the question of whether they can actually prove any. As Techdirt points out, even if people were actually using these devices to scan and pirate books, apparently hardly anyone actually reads pirated e-books anymore.
Even if they did, there are considerably easier ways to scan paper books, which can generally be constructed for a lot less than the cost of a new HP scanner/printer. But then, collection societies have to collect—especially in Europe, where media levies to compensate for copyright infringement are fairly common.