Canadian copying levy to apply on MP3 players – July 27, 2007

This thinking really irks me … Copying levy to apply on MP3 players.

The Canadian Copyright Board recently decided to extend the blank media levy to MP3 players (or just about anything else with an embedded recording capability) starting in 2008.

[In the 1990s, the music industry won a right to charge small levies on blank CDs and DVDs, having argued that those products were used primarily to copy music and therefore artists deserved a slice of the sales.]

I grudgingly put up with the levy — yes, sometimes blank CDs/DVDs and even hard drives are used to store illegally recorded/duplicated materials. But the Copyright Board seems to conveniently and repeatedly forget that these same devices with internal/built-in recording capability can also be used to store and play legitimately licensed/purchased materials.

When I *buy* music from a service such as iTunes or Puretracks, and then choose to put it on my MP3 player with internal storage or a PC with a hard drive, or a mobile phone with Flash memory, I end up paying twice (at least) for this “privilege” — Once for the license to the musical content, and at least once in the levy paid on the device I choose to store the music on. This goes well beyond the original goal of ensuring artists get paid fairly for the work they produce.

Many organizations and groups that were formerly DRM-friendly are distancing themselves from these technologies — For example, iTunes and Puretracks now *sell* DRM-free music, and Canadian bands like Sarah McLachlan and the Barenaked Ladies along with many Canadian record labels loudly decry DRM. These are not small names on the national nor international recording scene.

When will the insanity stop?? The blank CD levy has been around for years, yet the Copyright Board chooses to keep listening to the recording industry — Lobbying dollars still go far, I suppose. Federal politicians are in on the act too, having recently passed Bill C-59 in near record time and with minimal debate. That bill added a provision to the Criminal Code that makes camcorder recording of cinema movies illegal. Funny, since someone engaged in that activity already faces fines and/or imprisonment under the federal Copyright Act.

It seems that now is the time to buy that flashy MP3 audio player or MP3-enabled cell phone levy-free … Don’t wait until January 2008 unless you can afford an even lighter wallet.


Read more about this issue at:

See also “Music industry fee could pump up price of iPpods” (1-Aug-2007) on This article talks about the view of the Canadian Private Copying Collective whose money-sharing formula is “broadly accepted” by artists that receive the money.

The wording of the copyright board’s decision suggests the levy could be extended to hard drives and digital memory cards — which are used in digital cameras, cell phones, computers, etc. According to CPCC director David Basskin, the collective has its eyes set only on MP3 players.

Pardon my skepticism 🙂