Copyright "content duties" or a "cultural flat-rate" as a duty on Internet connections are under discussion.
5.1.7 Copyright provisions
According to the Austrian Copyright Act, copyright arises with the creation of a work by its originator. No formal Act (notification or registration) is required in order to obtain copyright protection for a work. According to paragraph 1, such works must be "personal intellectual creations in the fields of literature, music, visual arts and film". Since the 1980s, developments have increasingly tended towards lump-sum compensation. Proceeds from claims for compensation that are asserted by the copyright collecting societies are partly devoted to social / cultural purposes, and partly distributed to the copyright holders.
An amendment to the Copyright Act in 1980 introduced a copyright fee on blank tapes. The copyright collecting society Austro-Mechana is entrusted with collecting the royalties. The fee varies between 0.04 EUR and 0.27 EUR, depending on whether it is regulated by contract or an autonomous tariff and depending on the type of recording medium. According to Austro-Mechana's 2010 annual report, total collections show a decrease of 8.83% from EUR 11.699 million in 2009 to EUR 9.907 million in 2010. The decline is attributable almost entirely to the shift in technology and consumer behaviour from recordable products to products with integral hard discs. The tariffs for these devices are relatively low. Efforts to negotiate tariffs with the consumer electronics industry for mobile phones with MP3 devices and hard discs in PCs have failed. Law suits are pending in both cases.
Comparable to this fee, a copyright fee for reprography – for single devices and for (large-scale) operators – was introduced in 1996. It is collected by the copyright collecting societies Literar-Mechana, VBK (copyright collecting society for visual artists) and Musikedition.
The inter-ministerial working group (IMAG), established by the Minister of Education, Arts and Culture in 2009 to improve artists' social situation (see also chapter 3.2, chapter 3.3 and chapter 4.2.9) has also discussed copyright issues. It is being considered how digital media can be included in the payment of royalties; currently user behaviour is being more closely investigated and discussions are being held with collecting societies. Various proposals are being circulated: alongside the "hard-disk duty" levied on trade since 2010, which like the "empty cassette payment" may also be extended to new storage media, "content duties", which could be processed through the marketers of creative content (download and streaming platforms, cable operators, providers, distributors, record companies) or a "cultural flat-rate" as a duty on Internet connections are also under discussion. The "hard-disk duty" has also been hotly debated and has even led supporters and opponents to street demonstrations in Vienna. In 2012, attacks by the hacker group Anonymous led to the closure of the website of the "Austro-Mechana" collecting society; the Internet activists demand that the collecting society should distance itself from the demand for a copyright duty on hard disks; on the other side, many artists and interest-group representatives from the platform "Festplattenabgabe jetzt!" (Hard-Disk Duty Now!) and the initiative "Kunst hat Recht" (Art is Right) call for the rapid implementation or extension of this measure for the protection of creative services and products. Gaps in the current copyright law should in any case be closed.
In 1994, an author's claim to funds collected via public lending rights from approximately 2 500 public libraries was established in Copyright Law; the sum of which is to be agreed upon by the authors' collecting society. In 1996, a lump sum payment between the federal government (116 276 EUR), the Federal Provinces (465 106 EUR) and the authors' rights society was contractually agreed.
Amendments to the Copyright Act were implemented in 2003, in accordance with the EU Directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the Information Society. Minor changes were made including the list of types of free use, and the improvement of legal protection against the circumvention of technical measures.
In 2005 – in line with the EU directive – a resale right for artists was introduced in Austria as well. Under this right, artists receive between 0.25% and 4% of the profits from the resale of their work according to the appropriate price scale. The reimbursement amounts to EUR 12 500 at most. The right to claim, however, only exists for a sale price of over EUR 3 000, something the artists' interest-group representatives criticise as being much too high. Since 2010 the resale right has also applied to the resale of artworks of deceased artists for up to 70 years after their death.
A reform of the Act on Copyright Collecting Societies in 2006 means that "KommAustria" (see chapter 4.2.6) is now responsible for overseeing the eight Austrian copyright collecting societies.
Further issues that are being discussed in the IMAG (see above) and which require clarification include: a possible "culture flat rate", the introduction of a Communal Copyright (after the expiry of term of copyright) and Copyright Contract Law with the assignment of royalty claims.