Confirming what has been an open secret for some time, Canadian Recording Industry Association President Graham Henderson has told Billboard Magazine that CRIA would welcome the removal of the private copying levy (article not yet online but thanks to a reader for passing it along). Henderson says that "we don't want a private copying levy that, in effect, sanctions online theft."
The change in position is remarkable if only because CRIA was the leading proponent of the levy throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Having spent 15 years fighting for the levy, it has taken less than half that time for the organization now to want to get rid of it. Moreover, the change pits CRIA against Canadian artists and collectives, who have benefited from more than a $150 million in levy revenues. Indeed, the article contains opposing quotes from David Basskin of CMRRA and Solange Drouin of ADISQ, who both favour keeping the levy.
Three other points worth noting. First, Henderson's quote is an implicit acknowledgment that the private copying levy does cover peer-to-peer downloading for personal, non-commercial purposes. If the public is confused about the state of Canadian copyright law, perhaps it is because CRIA has sought to argue otherwise every chance that it gets. Second, dropping the levy alone is not enough, since Canadians will still legitimately want to make copies of their CDs to other devices such as iPods. CRIA has said they're ok with that copying but the law needs to change to address the issue. The simple fix would be to shift from fair dealing to a broader fair use provision. Third, no one should overlook an additional Henderson quote in the article. In discussing the use of DRM, Henderson says "we are moving into an environment where everything will be either copy-protected or mostly copy-protected." That likely reflects the view of the major international labels, but I'm not so sure it is how the independent labels, who are responsible for 90 percent of new Canadian music, view the future.
Update: The full Billboard article has been posted online.