Japan eyes adding copyright fee to iPod price

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Japan's Cultural Affairs Agency has proposed adding a fee to the price of Apple iPods and other digital music and video devices to partially compensate rights holders for revenues lost to piracy.

The proposal represents an extension of an existing program that adds the fee to the price of blank recordable media and products such as MiniDisc recorders. Consumers end up paying an additional few tens of yens (tens of U.S. cents) for media under the scheme that started in 1992.

The agency, which is part of Japan's central government, wants this expanded to music players and video recorders based on hard-disk drives, an agency spokesman said on customary condition on anonymity. It's not clear how much extra the fee would add to the price of hardware.

However the iPod and other music players are primarily devices for music playback, not music recording, so their potential role in piracy isn't as clear as that of a MiniDisc recorder or video recorder.

The proposal will likely be formed into a report that will feed into a planned Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology proposal to amend Japan's copyright law. If everything goes to schedule the amended copyright law would come into effect in 2010 but the proposal's inclusion in the amendment to the copyright law is not automatic and could be shelved or changed prior to its inclusion.

Apple didn't respond to a request for comments.

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