hp printerTechdirt 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.


  1. If you’re going to “aggregate” or simply plagiarize another outlet’s work on the not-ironic subject of copyright, learn that a copyright collective is not a collection “society,” let alone a collection “agency.” It isn’t about “collection” in the first place.


  2. @Joe: Without any infallibility claimed, here are the facts as best I can determine them at a glance. Chris Meadows’s attribution to Techdirt is rather conspicuous. Furthermore, I suspect he is using the word “collection society” to be on the safe side, because TD went with identical language and he didn’t want the terminology to be wrong.

    In that regard, Techdirt links to passages summing up the claims against HP. The passages came from Peter L’Ecluse, an intellectual property lawyer in Brussels writing in Mondique, a publication devoted to international legal, regulatory and financial matters. L’Ecluse himself used the terms “collecting society.” While it would have been nice for Techdirt to enlighten us about the source of the quotes rather than just quietly linking to them, it’s clear the words are from someone with more than a cursory knowledge of the legal terminology involved. Furthermore, I wouldn’t be surprised if the exact language used varied from country to country in some cases. You can call out Chris on “agency” vs. “collective,” and for all I know you could be technically right, but at least from afar, it would seem you’re splitting hairs. If nothing else, I’m curious why you object to the word “collections” or “collecting.”

    I’m all for precision in language, but I’m baffled why you focused on that issue rather than on HP vs. that levy. What’s your opinion here? Do you think that governments should make owners of printer-scanners pay up just because of the device they own? If so, I’ll welcome your laying out your arguments as opposed to flaming Chris directly or indirectly. Here at TeleRead, we welcome civility toward other commenters and toward writers, in our comments section. It’s fine to demolish arguments. It is not so cool to say or imply that Chris is a plagiarist.

    As for the category tags, the ones Chris used are useful for both humans and search engines.


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