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Supreme Court rules that digital books have tax immunity

Wednesday, March 08, 2017



By unanimous vote, the Plenary of the Supreme Court (STF) decided that electronic books and the media for reading them enjoy the tax immunity of article 150, subsection VI, subitem "d", of the Federal Constitution. The justices dismissed the Extraordinary Appeals (REs) 330817 and 595676, tried jointly at Wednesday's session (8). For the collegiate, tax immunity on books, newspapers, periodicals and paper for printing should comprehend electronic books, exclusive media for reading and storage, as well as electronic components that come along with didactic material.

In the Extraordinary Appeal 330817, with general acknowledged repercussions, the State of Rio de Janeiro questioned a decision of the local Court of Justice (TJ-RJ), which, in a writ of mandamus filed by the publisher, acknowledged the existence of the immunity provided by the article 150 (subsection VI, (D) of the Federal Constitution to a software called the Electronic Legal Encyclopedia and to the magnetic disc (CD-ROM) in which cultural information is recorded. For the state, the electronic book, as a new mean of diffusion, is distinct from the printed book and therefore should not have the benefit of immunity.

For the rapporteur, justice Dias Toffoli, the constitutional immunity debated in the appeal also reaches the digital book. According to the justice, both the 1969 Federal Charter and the 1988 Constitution, when considering the immunity on a certain property, book, newspaper or periodical, turn their attention to the purpose of the norm, in order to enhance its effectiveness. "This was the decision to recognize as immune the technical magazines, telephone directory, the handbooks, the figurine albums, as well as printed maps and geographical atlases," he said in his vote.

For the rapporteur, the immunity rule also applies to e-reader or e-reader devices, made exclusively for this purpose, even if they may be equipped with ancillary features that aid in digital reading such as access to the internet for downloading books, possibility of changing font type and size and spacing.


The Plenary also approved, unanimously, two theses of general repercussion for the judgment of appeals. The text approved in the judgment of RE 330817 was: The tax immunity provided on article 150, VI, "d", of the Federal Constitution, applies to e-books, including the devices exclusively used to support it. According to RE 595676, the justices pointed out that "the tax immunity provided on subitem" d "of subsection VI of article 150 of the Federal Constitution covers electronic components exclusively intended to integrate didactic units with fascicles".


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