CRIA Calls for End to Private Copying Levy

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.


  1. Wrong country... says:

    Oh this is so sweet, thank you Michael and contributor for bringing it forward. Once again it illustrates the total disregard for consumers, artists and impossible to appease bottomless pit of greed these oligopolies are capable of. Don’t they realize shameless business ethics is not something they can import and impose on us? Canadian policy is yet to be easily purchased guys, take it back to George Bush.

  2. Interested Reader
    Really ,they should change their name to CRIAA. It just goes to show that this whole issue was never about piracy. It is about selling the same content each time you want to use a different method of enjoying it. Take HBO as an example. This subscription based tv channel is against all use of copying their shows from tv (on PVRs) because they say that the viewers can re- watch them via video on demand (for a fee). I think that this is symptomatic of the whole entertainement buisiness. They are the extremists of capitalism, seeing how technology empowered their customers, now wants to extinguish the blaze by suffocating it. it is rather pathetic.

  3. I hope they drop the CRIA affiliated artists from payments from the levy, and give it to the Canadian artists who really need it (not those one so established that they have CRIA label contracts). If it worked that way, I wouldn’t mind if they raised the levy, even though we buy our music in this house with or without the levy.

    What I don’t like is the levy money being used to buy off politicians.

  4. Dear Liza there’s a hole…
    WOW – it certainly sounds like Mr. Henderson has been given his marching orders to hurry up and plug this “gaping Canadian hole” in the RIAA/IFPI world litigation strategy!
    Wonder if the global music heads are even aware of the chain of breaches of trust and conflicts of interest Mr. Henderson is initiating by conveying such reversals in opinion, in statements and the CRIA’s position?
    Truly bizzare (maybe manic?) that out of the CRIA side of Mr. Henderson’s mouth now comes a call to stop the payments while out of the AVLA side of his mouth he continues to pleasantly accept, process and distribute 15% of the private copying take to those who sign his paycheques. All-the-while, Mr. Henderson sits at the governance tables of the AVLA, the CRIA and the NRCC discerning over the exact amount that take should be! …Worse, the man dares to speak about “ethics” in his speeches!
    Yikes… wonder where IS the CRIA Board of Directors in all of this ANY way? The 4 CEOs have GOT to be getting worried that some police, government or other inquiry might be launched resulting from the antics of their appointed CEO. If the CRIA’s 4 controlling/voting member CEOs REALLY support a repeal of this levy, they should unanimously do the right thing and RETURN the $millions they’ve accepted retroactive to 1999, and also RESIGN their 2 AVLA=CRIA seats on the governing board of the NRCC – the organization which promotes the CRIA’s continuing 15% remuneration from the CPCC monies.

  5. Time to Investigate?
    Where is the Canadian equivalent of Eliot Spitzer?

    CRIA, CPCC, CMRRA, SOCAN, AVLA…. Who are these organizations? Everyone seems to have their finger in the pie, taking a piece of the action. They seem to have incestuous board membership with cross representation. Isn’t it time to map out these organizations, their ties to industry, artists, government, leadership structure and governance model?

    From what I have been reading this sounds like a complex structure that someone who is trying hide something would set up to confuse and obfuscate. Micahel, has anyone pubished such a document. If not, could be an interesting class assignment.

    Finally, in the billboard article, CCFDA states that they want to eliminate the levy, in favour of TPM and DRM. This casual comment, without qualifying what’s an acceptable form of DRM/TPM, could lead to fewer user rights. The government needs to issue a statement of acceptable user rights (I think they may have already done this), and then ensure that any TPM’s protect the consumer rights. Economically, TPMs are under fire because they already deprive users of their fair use for content purchased from two different suppliers (Apple, Microsoft)

    More work is required.

  6. lindsay stewart says:

    a scampering of crooks
    after all of this time, filling their pockets with our consumer millions, the greedies are suddenly willing to abandon their private, corporate tax? could that be the sound of the ground slipping out from beneath their feet? with the six canadian, major indie labels leaving the table, they don’t actually have that ground to stand on. the cria is a foreign controlled lobbying organization, they can’t honestly claim to represent canadian consumers, artists or the homegrown music industry.

    as an artist and a consumer of media, they do not represent me or my interests. they intend to keep lining their pockets and playing their customers for suckers. the major music companies are scrambling because they became fat and arrogant. all around them, media went through a revolution. they refused to adapt or even to understand the basic shifts in the marketplace. they neglected the cardinal rule of the pop/ent business. the kids will decide what they want, how they want it and where they’ll get it. if you meet them there and treat them with a grain of respect, you’ll make money. if you try to herd them, hassle them and act out of avarice, they’ll give you the finger and move on.

    as for bev oda and her spiffy new legislation, i just can’t wait to see what colours the screw job comes in. she speaks of international obligations and meeting some sort of standards. well, just exactly to whom, as a nation, as the people of this nation, are we so obliged?

    my pledge, as a working canadian artist, is to never stoop to having any form of drm or malicious software in my product. at the point of completion, everything i create will be under the creative commons. i understand very well, that music shared is music appreciated. if a fan plays my music for a friend, i benefit. if that friend likes it enough to make a copy, i benefit. i make music because i love it and i want it to be heard. if people like what i do, enough to attend a show, purchase an “official” disc or seek out mp3s, then i benefit. if they don’t make such a purchase, i am not harmed.

    as a consumer, i will not purchase any recorded media that has drm or any malicious software. i refuse to allow giant corporations to have proprietary access to my machines. the interest of a conglomerate, trying to protect a $20 cd, does not supercede my interest in protecting my thousands of dollars worth of equipment. i do my work on these things, hidden software running in deep background can damage the very expensive software we use to create our work. suffice it to say that i will be adding my voice to those, advocating for fair use and for canadian cultural and economic interests.

    thank you michael for your continued effforts.

  7. Catherine says:

    I’m so angry…. I was just charged a $5.25 copying levy for a 25 pk of CD-Rs that I purchased to copy my personal photographs on. I have never downloaded music and have told my children not to because I believe it’s theft. I now feel I’ve been found guilty with no opportunity to prove my innocense.

  8. Harsh Reality
    I don’t have much to add, that Lindsay didn’t say. As an artist myself, I view the CRIA and the interests they represent as a HINDRANCE to my art. This is about making sure that the suits get a piece of your pie, regardless of where or when you eat it. It’s rapidly degenerating into Privacy Invasion, as the recent issues with Sony malicious software have proven. Let the whole thing collapse. Everyone will be better off without it.