Sorting Through The Spin: The Liberals and the iTax

The issue of Liberal support for an “iTax” hit a fever pitch this week with competing releases – the Liberals stating they are against it and the Conservatives releasing a radio ad that says the Liberals support such reforms.  That led some to ask for evidence to sort out the competing claims.  This post is an attempt to do that.

First, it is clear that the radio ad is factually wrong.  The Liberals now unequivocally state that they oppose an iPod levy.  The radio ad says of the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc “now they all back an iPod tax.”  There isn’t much room for interpretation here – the Liberals have stated their current policy and the Conservative ad says the opposite.

Second, even if the ad is wrong, some claim that the Liberals have flip-flopped on the issue.  For example, Stephen Taylor makes that case, pointing to their support for a motion on the private copying levy from earlier this year.  He adds that the press release says one thing, the vote another.

This position requires a more careful examination of the motion and the vote itself.  This saga begins with a motion in March at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage stating:

That the Committee recommends that the government amend Part VIII of the Copyright Act so that the definition of “audio recording medium” extends to devices with internal memory, so that the levy on copying music will apply to digital music recorders as well, thereby entitling music creators to some compensation for the copies made of their work. 

That motion, brought forward by Bloc MP Carole Lavallee, was supported by the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc.  Five of the six Conservatives voted against it, but Conservative Chair Gary Schellenberger voted in support.  Contrary to some speculation, his support was not a requirement of the chair.  Indeed, he says as much in the evidence from the vote:

The vote is tied. It is up to me. I wrote a letter and I’m on the record, and with that, I am going to support my letter.

In other words, the Conservative Chair of the committee was on the record in supporting extending the levy and stood by his support.  In fact, I believe the vague wording in the motion – there is no mention of iPods – was a function of mirroring the language Schellenberger used in his own public letter.

The Committee vote had the effect of bringing the motion to the House of Commons, where it was debated for a few hours and ultimately supported by the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc MPs (Schellenberger voted against).

The problem is that the vote is not conclusive in making the case that there is or was support for an iPod tax since the motion only calls for extending the definition of what could apply to the levy system. So what exactly did the motion mean?  According to Carole Lavallee, the Bloc MP who brought forward the motion, it was about a principle, not specific legislative reform.  She stated:

The vote is on the principle. We agree that it is not a vote on the words as they are set out one after another. This vote is on the idea that creators should be paid and remunerated for their work.

That broader framing is consistent with comments from the Liberal MPs who spoke to the motion, who were generally quite critical of the motion itself.  For example, Liberal Heritage Critic Pablo Rodriguez was critical of the motion once it came to the House of Commons for debate (though he did believe it applies to iPods):

With respect to content, it is clear that the motion is not specific enough, particularly when it comes to the digital devices targeted by the new levy. What exactly are we talking about? We know that it would apply to iPods because people use them primarily to listen to music, but would it also apply to the BlackBerry and iPhone? That is a good question. Will it also apply to home computers? In short, will it apply to all devices that have a memory and can record and play back music? We think it is absolutely critical that we differentiate between these devices based on their primary use. The primary use of a device that will be subject to the levy is a new element we have to consider in this debate.

This matter deserves to be taken seriously, but a motion that does not take this distinction into account will not help. However, I want to say that the work that went into this motion is not for nothing. It reminds us that we still have a lot to do to deal with current problems that need solutions. That is what I wanted to say about the content of the motion.

Ruby Dhalla was even more critical, asking whether the motion even applied to iPods:

There are many flaws with the motion that we have identified in talking to many individuals, to stakeholders and to organizations. For example, the motion does not talk about devices that would be levied. What about the BlackBerrys and iPods that are being used? It is our belief that we must study this further to ensure it makes sense. We must ensure that the categories for this particular motion would be identified.

Dhalla also sought to explain why the Liberals supported the motion at committee:

As a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, along with my colleague, the member for Saint-Bruno-Saint-Hubert, who is the official critic for the official opposition on the Canadian Heritage file, we were most interested in having the motion brought forward to the Chamber where we could have an opportunity to debate, discuss and, hopefully, highlight for the government the need for copyright legislation to ensure that we modernize it and that it is reflective of the needs of the organizations, the stakeholders, the advocates and, most important, the artists.

That support for more debate was also central to the comments from Scott Simms, the third Liberal MP to speak to the motion:

I commend my colleague for doing this and I commend the private member’s bill simply because it proliferates the debate. We need this debate and discussion in the House before we arrive at the next copyright bill, which is coming, I anticipate in the spring, but I am sure we will find out about that very shortly.

Moreover, immediately after the vote, the Liberals told the media that the vote did not signify support for the policy.  Rodriguez told the Wire Report:

“We support the best tool there is to compensate creators. It could be the levy, it could be something else. We’re in the process of consulting, of discussing [this] with artists, with groups.”  Rodriguez said the Liberals voted in favour of the motion to express “the principle of supporting artists.”

My read is that it is certainly possible to conclude that the Liberals did not flip-flop – they voted for the principle of compensation for artists, which is consistent with what they said this week.  That said, there is room to interpret the support for the motion as support for extending the levy to iPods.  If the Liberals were opposed to that reform, the obvious course would have been to vote against a motion they themselves described as flawed.


  1. Disillusioned voter …
    I find it hard to believe anything that comes out of the heritage office these days. I was a life long conservative supporter until their behavior on this issue opened my eyes. I hope as this issue goes more mainstream it will show others the two faces of this government. I would like to believe it is just incompetence on the part of the CPC in their handling of the digital issues file rather than the outright purchase of their loyalties, but I’m afraid it’s probably a combination of both.

    I have voted NDP previously because of their stance but now I will have to look more closely at the liberals. I say this as I expect this bill to die on the table as we go into yet another mind numbing similar outcome election (all for the low cost of $300 million). The review C-32 committee will run until that time so the CPC will not have to give in to the opposition demands on the locks.

    Brilliant … 0_o

  2. RE: Crockett
    Crockett, out of curiousity, were you specifically a “new Conservative” part supporter or rather a supporter of the “Progressive Conservatives” pre-merger? This isn’t an attack, I am just curious.

    Back to the issue at hand, I wonder if the Connies realize that there are more portable media players than just the iPod (considering the Apple-slanted language like “iTax”)? Or that the term “mp3 player” is inaccurate?

  3. “That the Committee recommends that the government amend Part VIII of the Copyright Act so that the definition of “audio recording medium” extends to devices with internal memory”

    All digital electronics these days have internal memory, including CD-players, DVD and Blu-Ray players. Moreover, something like the Playstation 3 which is intensively used as a Blu-Ray player, has a hard drive too, and comes with software to “rip” audio CDs on said hard drive.

    If we start this way then arguably we should have a levy on all and any device that is capable of playing audio and/or video, except older analog ones (turntables and such).

    While the principle of having creators paid is good, this implementation of the principle is wrong. Especially since in the end it will just line up the pockets of some “starving millionaires” managing artists associations.


  4. Eric, I am old enough to have been both. MA number of my friends wonder how I could change? And when they do I take every opportunity to tell them just why!

  5. Funny part is the iPod has the best option which lets users easily buy legal music while most of the other mp3 players are basically media storage devices. Seems to me the record companies want to make up for the smaller share they get from iTunes by taxing Canadians.

    How long did horse carriage builders get corporate welfare for?

  6. One thing is clear to me on the issue of the levy… No matter what they may decide to do, I believe it is imperative that they consider the fact that this levy, regardless of what they might claim it is intended to do, is generally perceived by the public to legitimize or endorse the normality and therefore acceptability of copyright infringement.

  7. It is my understanding that the levy proposals are to compensate for private copying (time/format shift & backups), not file sharing. But as Mark stated that is not how most people are going to see it as any normal person would consider private copying an already reasonable and allowable practice. I think it would be better to allow private copying up front as a first sale right and forget the levies. Then the issues of fair use and file sharing become two completely separate issues that can be be dealt with in a focused manner.

  8. @Crockett: “It is my understanding that the levy proposals are to compensate for private copying (time/format shift & backups), not file sharing”.

    Which is BS, once I bought the product I should be able to listen/watch it as I see fit, without any further payment. What happened to the notion of “peaceful enjoyment of our own property”?

    Since this is idiotic, people will assume the logical explanation – the one that Mark mentioned and go ballistic on P2P.


  9. Sad the Commons can’t debate the concept of compensation
    So sad these guys/gals can’t get it around their heads that the issue id fair compensation not protecting big business or arguing minute details like hardware. OMG digital memory? everything is digital memory-duh! Let’s write laws that force every Canadian to break the law just for common social practice like buying music/audiobooks. We aren’t talking about selling pirate movies in Hong Kong. Get with it House!

  10. How to compensate for the loss of sales?
    Lots of partisanship found in comments:
    Same writer says: “I was a life long conservative supporter” then says “I have voted NDP previously” and finally “now I will have to look more closely at the liberals” So we know this was written by a Liberal who is attempting to bring Conservative and NDP voters to his side. Pretty transparent.

    There are many mp3 players, or more accurately, devices that play digital files, portable and otherwise. This issue only arises because artists’ and their agents, record companies, et al have lost the cash cow that was the record-buying public when music became copyable at a high level of reproduction. That happened when Dolby noise reduction was applied to cassette tapes, and that’s why a surcharge was added to blank tape sales. The artists’ losses accelerated when Phillips and Sony invented the CD (and later the DVD) but had the most impact once home computers could reproduce rip and reproduce CDs. Then it went downhill as far as music producers were concerned. The back catalog stopped allowing a life of leisure and now artists were required to perform regularly to earn their keep. The question is whether the public’s loss of art is great enough to be compensated by an extension of the original tape tax to all things digital, and, one supposes, whether the money raised by such tax would make any difference for the artists or the purchasers. And, ultimately, how the money raised could be fairly distributed to the artists (writers, players, singers, actors, agents, record companies and on). Some brands become so well-known that they become a generic name (e.g. Ski-Doo, Jet-Ski, Zamboni) so it’s fair to believe that iPod was not named because it could be seen as limiting the application. And it also seems reasonable that putting such a tax would drive sales across the border. So should the government instead give performing artists’ of all applicable stripes a tax break or annual compensatory payment based on the number of public performances or art produced in the year previous? It is a minefield.

  11. I think its simple. If technology/social attitude towards your product makes your product/service valueless then its time to find a new market or a job. If you can’t compete say for example allowing easy purchasing of your music/movies (not through some restricted venue/method) in a digital age you need to die as an industry and not lobby to make consumer pay for your outdate dinosaur business model.

    What’s next we need to compensate the paper and printing industry as cd sales are replaced with downloads since now they wont be designing or printing cd covers? How about compensating the paper industry for loss of sales because of e-ink? I can come out with tons of these how about we give money to… retarded ideas.

  12. Hold on Podpusher ..
    @Podpusher “So we know this was written by a Liberal who is attempting to bring Conservative and NDP voters to his side. Pretty transparent. ”

    Wrong reading there, I have hundreds of posts on this forum so I think I have a little street cred to spare. I voted conservative my whole voting life until last election when I voted NDP because of Charlie Angus’ support of both consumer and artists rights over big business. I still like Charlie and agree with a lot of what he has to say. My point was that now the Liberals are starting to understand the importance of this issue and see how it is starting to resonate with the public. So they are adjusting their policies to reflect that, which is easier to do when you are not the government in power and in direct aim of the lobbyists pocketbooks.

  13. Could someone explain the difference to me between either applying a levy as the radio ad says, or coughing up 35 million of taxpayers money to compensate as the LPC as mentioned, is this not still a tax. The difference as I see it is the levy is the more honest form of compensation but would evoke the more of a public out cry and the other option is more behind the curtain and most people would not have a clue it was happening. So lets be a little honest, the CPC is saying No to both and the LPC is saying no to the levy but we can slide the artist some cash out of general revenue and no one will get upset with us.

  14. @Kingston: “Could someone explain the difference to me between either applying a levy as the radio ad says, or coughing up 35 million of taxpayers money to compensate as the LPC as mentioned, is this not still a tax.”

    Beyond the principle of fairness (why should an iPod user pay a levy since he’s already paying for the iTunes he buys):

    A levy will get to be managed by the “starving millionaires” running artist/creators associations.

    A tax will have to be managed by the government.


  15. IPod Tax
    However, did you mention that the Liberals are in favour of a $35 million fund. Where do you think the money is coming from? The fairy. Whether its an ipod tax or simply a tax it is a tax and therefore they are in favour of a new tax.

  16. Nap, I guess my question was a little vague, lets try it again, Is the LPC proposal of compensation thru general revenues just a quick dodge of the perceived problem. i.e. we do not support a levy, we support giving them everyone’s money. Whether the I Pod owner who only has music legally downloaded is in my mind not even a consideration right now, my concern is the the talking out of both sides of their mouth of the LPC, no, we do not support a specific tax (the levy) but we support giving them tax monies out of general revenue. Hell, if a middle class normal guy like me can see this, why can all these professional talking heads not see it and call it what it is, a political dodge on the part of the LPC. Love or hate the CPC, at least they are taking a firm position on the issue

  17. @Kingston: “no, we do not support a specific tax (the levy) but we support giving them tax monies out of general revenue. ”

    Dodge or not it sounds better than the levy.

    If it is out of general revenue then we could inquire on how exactly it was spent.


  18. A targeted fund is better than a profit generating tax …
    I suppose a key consideration is if artists even deserve (at least over other economically affected people) financial support from the government? I am opposed to a levy mostly because it rewards everyone regardless of need, if proportional then it inversely rewards those who need it the least. So, as a profit generating tax I cannot support it. I do think artists are important, especially ones who reflect our Canadian values and culture (no jokes here please). Therefore I can personally agree with the concept of tax dollars being used to support Canadian artists in need to continue their work, but once established they should earn their money from sales just like anyone else.

  19. To Sum it Up
    What we want from the government is to be fair and accountable.

    Not letting people enjoy legally acquired recordings on the devices of their choice is perceived as not being fair.

    Applying a levy on a selection of benign devices is perceived as not being fair.

    The way the levy is currently spent is perceived as not being accountable.

    Fix these and you fixed C-32.


  20. My take on the Conservatives
    A little off topic here, but I feel I have to
    get it off my chest. And no offense to the Conservative
    boosters out there.

    IMO, the Cons aren’t a very compassionate party.
    They really don’t seem to care about the disabled
    or less fortunate. It’s all business with them,
    any if you’re not a wealthy business owner, they’re
    not likely to do much for you. Remember Mike Harris?
    It wouldn’t matter one way or the other if you were
    a wealthy businessman. The social programs he cut. etc

    I live in a rural part of Ontario, where it’s pretty
    much Conservative town. My guess ( and I could be
    wrong) is that some of the working to upper middle
    class think that the Cons are going to do something
    for them.” Maybe they’ll get those bums off the streets,
    and get them a job like I had to do” And those people
    who can walk? They’re not really disabled! If they can
    walk, they can work!” When I think of the self
    interest ( and that’s why people vote), I
    think about the sheer ignorant statements like the
    ones I came up with above. And most parties try
    to use the ol’ “we’ll lower your taxes” to sway

    I know everyone is has their own opinions. I’m
    just giving mine.

    Again, I’m sorry if I offend anyone. I don’t mean
    to. And maybe I’m wrong to degree? I hope I am.

  21. Re: Sum it Up
    Good thoughts Nap, but I see a dichotomy in your first 2 points that may be impossible to reconcile.

    Canadian copyright law has never explicitly allowed people to format/time shift or “copy” a work for their own personal tastes or lifestyle. Quite the opposite. Until the advent of mass produced recording equipment, and then digital quality copy/recording, this wasn’t an issue. The law never addressed this possibility.
    The introduction of the levy was in response to society changes driven by technology advances, and a pragmatic recognition that this “infringement” was becoming general practice by a growing part of the public. It never explicitly legalized the practice, but the levies did open up a “grey area” for defending the practice.

    If we explicitly legalize the practice of format/time/custom shifting (copying) legally acquired content for personal use, this “general practice” cannot be used to justify any levies. Either we drop all the levies, or we find another “pragmatic” reason to justify them (and open up another grey area).

    The implementation details of levy accounting is a separate issue, and hangs on the rationale behind justification of any pragmatic levy.

    The copyright structures we have today have grown over time into a house of cards. It can be very difficult to poke or shift some of the cards without disturbing or collapsing other cards, perhaps whole sections of them. Keeping this in mind, maybe it’s time to reread the concepts in:

    The only question I have is, do we let it collapse by itself before we do anything, or do we force the collapse by replacing whole sections of structure by design?

  22. Primary Use?
    …”We think it is absolutely critical that we differentiate between these devices based on their primary use. The primary use of a device that will be subject to the levy is a new element we have to consider in this debate.”

    Then I think they had better think very carefully about that definition of “Primary Use”. Example;

    I have the exact same model of cell phone as a relative. It is quite capable of storing a vast quantity of mp3 and can output in full stereo. I don’t store any music and never use it as “music player”. On the other hand my relative has it stuck in his in car system all day long playing music. His “primary use” is playing music, mine is as a phone. Yet we both independently chose the same model based on it’s feature set, and our personal “primary use”.
    Another; I have a friend with an iPod, that never uses it to play music. Strange, but true.

    These are often very capable and multipurpose devices. What is put on the marketing blurbs is a list of all it’s features, even though it may be marketed at a particular market segment. Defining “primary purpose” of these devices would be like defining the “primary purpose” of a home. Is it eating, sleeping, bathroom functions, entertaining, or something else?

    So, does “primary purpose” mean a capability is on the top of the list? Bottom of the list? Even on the list? The principle of a levy on selected media devices is easy to say, but when it comes time to implement the details, it will become quite arbitrary. Lots of square pegs, lots of round holes.

    The discussion of a levy is interesting and has possibilities, but you really do have to step back and ask yourself;
    – what specific problem are you trying to solve?
    – does it even need to be “solved”?
    – is this the appropriate place (media) to solve it?

    Until you can clearly articulate the answers to the above, you have no idea if a media levy is appropriate.

  23. @oldguy: “Canadian copyright law has never explicitly allowed people to format/time shift or “copy” a work for their own personal tastes or lifestyle. Quite the opposite. Until the advent of mass produced recording equipment, and then digital quality copy/recording, this wasn’t an issue. The law never addressed this possibility. ”

    Oldguy, this was happening since the days of analog equipment. Like in recording your favorite vinyl discs on tape cassette to listen in your car. Or, if you had some rare discs, copy them on reel tape and listen to the tape as to minimize wear on the originals.

    But as I mentioned in another post:

    -this didn’t harm anyone
    -it was not enforceable to prevent people doing so.

    So yes everybody was seeing that the law was not adequate but no one was trying to enforce it so we just happily went along.

    “Piracy” was limited to exchanging tapes with your friends, and while this could be construed into “lost sales”, the scale at which it was done was not dangerous for “the industry”.

    Now we have P2P where you “exchange” music with the whole world, the scale is dangerous and I can understand the need to address it somehow.

    But if you come with an unfair/unenforceable law we’ll not be any better..


  24. Just to add to the previous message. What has changed from the times of vinyl is not the ability to make copies. We were able to do them all the time.

    It is the distribution scale of said copies that have changed (now you can distribute to the whole world) – and IMHO this is what should be addressed.


  25. @oldguy: “I have the exact same model of cell phone as a relative. It is quite capable of storing a vast quantity of mp3 and can output in full stereo. I don’t store any music and never use it as “music player”.”

    Well here’s another example. I have a Blackberry issued by my employer and company policy says to not store anything on it that is not business related. It is enforced and I could have a very awkward discussion with HR for a stupid mp3.

    Why should my employer pay a levy on these devices?


  26. Although the Liberals try to deceive the people and argue that it is a levy and not a tax they are treating Canadians like idiots because anybody, with an IQ that matches their shoe size, knows that whether it is a tax or a levy the I-Pod or whatever, will cost them more. It is a little rich for the Liberals and some in the media to say the Conservatives are lying when the Liberal position is there in Hansard for all to see.
    If Liberals have changed their mind and did a flip flop then media should tell Canadians that, and also warn Canadians that there is no guarantee that the Liberals will not change their mind again in a few months and flip flop back,as they are prone to do, to their original position of tax and levies on “latest technologies”. The Conservatives should continue to run ads so they can smoke out the Liberals latest position on topics of interest to Canadians.

  27. What’s all this talk about laws that allow us to do this and that? Laws are written to prohibit acts, not allow them. Have we become so sheepish now that we wait for our government to tell us what we can do, and assume that we can’t do something until we are told to? Arghhh!!

  28. oldguy said:
    Primary Use?
    …”We think it is absolutely critical that we differentiate between these devices based on their primary use. The primary use of a device that will be subject to the levy is a new element we have to consider in this debate.”

    Then I think they had better think very carefully about that definition of “Primary Use”. Example;

    Well all the manufacturer has to do now is sell an mp3 player as a radio first with the mp3 player part only working by inserting a media card like a sd/micro sd.

  29. @K-bert: “It’s all business with them,
    any if you’re not a wealthy business owner, they’re
    not likely to do much for you.”

    Now that’s not bad in itself as it is normal in a democracy to have several parties each one focusing on its own electorate.

    Problem is when those “wealthy businesses” are US not Canadian ones. May I quote Mr. Clement’s famous “Hollywood told us…” sentence?


  30. @Napalm

    I agree there for sure, Nap. It is important
    for the government to support “our” big business
    as you say.I can see some people, including myself,
    become disheartened with this govt, when they seem
    to have their heads up the US government’s butt.

    IMHO, a majority government is never good for
    its citizens. The elected party is given way too
    much power to do anything they desire. That then
    makes it seem we’re not really living in a democratic
    country. There’s a big problem when just one party
    can pass laws, with no opposition to stop them.

  31. @Nap
    …”What has changed from the times of vinyl is not the ability to make copies. We were able to do them all the time.
    It is the distribution scale of said copies that have changed (now you can distribute to the whole world) – and IMHO this is what should be addressed.”

    Yes. The signs of society changing have been there for a long time. Ever since copying and recording, and even sharing, started to get into the realm of the average person. To being with, it was ignored. When it became bigger, the decision was to implement a levy rather than update copyright law to reflect trends and new norms. The trend continues, and the pace of change is accelerating. The average person now has the ability to easily copy *and* cheaply distribute.

    Society has simply continued the trends started when personal analog copying came within the realm of the average person. Nobody is going to control those behaviors or redirect the trend, especially not in a democratic society. It is no longer an option to ignore or address the situation with media levies. It’s time to rethink and redesign our laws and structures. Get back to fundamentals, and figure out what is a fair, and workable, balance between general society and creators.

    But we are not going to correct anything using effectively minor tweaks to existing copyright law. Look forward, as well as backward.

  32. On the other hand a minority government is held ransom to a smaller cabal of politicians that have their own agenda. Canada has the ideal example of the Bloc dictating their agenda to whatever minority governing party is in power. Is that a democracy or extortion?

  33. @Antenor

    Every party has their own agenda. If one group
    of people are against a bill that the current power
    in government has, one or more of the parties opposing
    them could help either change, or veto the bill that
    the current power party has put forth. In turn, fighting
    for the people who vote for them in, since this particular
    bill may hurt the type of people who believe in them.

    It kind of boggles my mind why the bloc is even
    in the house of commons to begin with. They’re still
    seperatists, are they not?

  34. In all reality, who cares if the Librals flip-flopped in the past? You, me, them…everyone has the option to change their mind. This is their opinion now and, to my knowledge, has been since at least before the bill went to first reading. The conservatives all-out lied in there little radio ad.

    Now, on the topic of “primary use”… I’ve had a problem with this concept since the levy was first introduced. while I certainly made music CDs, my primary use for CDs was data storage. At least 50:1. In other words, on average I MIGHT have made a single music CD out of a 50 pack spindle of blank CDs.

    When it comes to memory devices. I could reluctantly agree to a levy on a propietary device such as the Hip Street MP3 player I have. It can’t “really” be used for anything else. I suppose I could use it for data storage, but there are cheaper and certainly faster options for that. But I can not agree to taxing generic memory, hard drives, computers, cell phones, iPad, Blackberrys, or anything else whose primary purpose is not to play COPIES of digital media. Like OldGuy, my cell phone plays MP3s, and I even have some loaded on there, but I NEVER use it. The dedicated device works better and the battery lasts longer. I really should just take the memory chip out of my phone as it could be far more useful elsewhere. Placing a tax on a hard drive or computer just because I “can” play MP3s on it is obscene and desperate. Should we all be sent to jail because we have a computer with a hard drive? Afterall we can ALL choose to store kiddy p0rn on them? Of course not because that’s NOT the primary purpose. Primary purpose should VERY carefully be considered!!!

    Should we then get taxxed on the memory, optical drive(s), hard drives(s) etc all separately when we buy a computer? This could potentially add hundreds of dollars to the cost of a computer and is not acceptable. I don’t use my primary computer (Gaming/general use) to play MP3s, or even my secondary (Media/Downloading) for that matter. I have them all stored on a NAS which I access with a “Western Digital HD Live” media player. Again, I could only reluctantly agree to a levy the “Western Digital HD Live” player, not the hardware, memory or drives in the NAS.

    And if one want to really get obsurd, if you take a standard 2-disk RAID1 mirror like so many on the market today, C-32 in the presence of digital locks, technically makes it illegal to run the device in RAID1 mode since it creates two separate copies of the file…expressly forbidden!!! I could remove the drives from the RAID and install them in separate machines and have two copies for the price of one.

  35. What’s interesting is that any time the Conservatives are doing something borderline undemocratic (i.e. proroguing Parliament twice in a row), the Liberals will outdo them, crossing the border (i.e. intentionally keeping “public works” law secret while police goes medieval on G-20 protester based on said law).


  36. @Nap:
    There is nothing even close to borderline about proroguing parliment to avoid losing power as the cons did.

    Feds and provicials for both parties are apples and oranges. Not sure why you would try to compare them, but if you did how would you figure abusing some shady law from 1990 in Ontario beats shutting down the government for the purpose of avoiding the result of a vote from the people’s representives in terms of being undemocratic? It’s a giant lugie in the face of democracy. Now if the people from Ontario were doing a referendum and because of the scandal at the G20 and the government saw that the vote wasn’t going their way and shut it down to make sure they could keep the law, that might compare, if you were trying to compare the ontario government against the federal one for some reason.

  37. @Crade:

    Proroguing is withing the limits of existing, well known laws, and in the end the responsibility went to Michaëlle Jean as she had to have the final decision. I didn’t like it either but Stephen tried and it worked for him.

    The G20 “secret law” thing was way more undemocratic. It was not about abusing an existing law, it was about modifying it without telling anyone but the police.


  38. Not sure what preexisting law has anything to do with how undemocratic it is. If it was the intent of the preexisting law to be used to circumvent democracy then it was a huge lugie when it was put in and another one now. If it was just a mistake and the government chose to abuse that mistake to circumvent democracy rather than fixing it, then it’s just a huge lugie now. Preventing the people’s representatives from voting for the purpose of avoiding the result is a direct attack on democracy no matter how you slice it.

  39. This kinda sounds lie a good thing to me …

    So the mega stars are a little less rich while we have a greater number of successful smaller bands resulting in greater cultural diversity. In all this seems like a good trade off to me. The people crying the loudest are the ones who can afford the losses, but these whimperings somehow seem to be drowning out the cheers of those who are are out entertaining their fans.

  40. @Crockett:

    What the article misses is the fact that now you can legally and comfortably sample/preview a lot of music on sites like iTunes and Amazon.

    So you tend to explore more and find those “hidden gems”.

    Previously you only went to the CD store and picked mainly the “brand names” as to avoid buying crap. The game those days was advertising, you bought whatever you could hear on radio and see clips on TV. This was enforcing the “brand names” since only them could afford big advertising expenses.

    We also have online shops now, and they sell downloads or ship overseas, it takes me a just couple of clicks to order some “obscure” (read unadvertised and unavailable here) European CDs.

    So yes now “smaller” bands get better exposure. Which is a Good Thing (TM). But since we have only so much money to spend on music each month, buying the “smaller” band means you won’t buy the “bigger” band. And then they’ll blame “piracy” and “lost revenue streams” from “private copying”. BS.


  41. Also, the labels are suffering (justly because of public backlash due to their own actions rather than because of piracy if you ask me) and those mega stars these days are often a creation of the labels through marketting. I would expect the amount of mega stars and the amount of money the mega stars make to decrease as the labels commit suicide. I’m hoping this will mean talent might make a comeback as a means of obtaining popularity.

  42. A VAST majority of what I buy I find on by looking at the “related” items sites like Youtube, eMusic and Amazon returns when I search something I know I already like. Much of it is mainstream in certain countries like the Netherlands or Germany, but virtually unknown over here, with either limited release or no release at all. 20 years ago, there would have been no way for me to know of such material. Sure, back in the 80’s-early 90’s, I ordered catelogs from magazines I bought and even ordered some music. Relying strictly on magazine reviews, with not being able to preview, more often than not, I got burned with music I didn’t care for. So I tended to stick to the big North American bands that I knew I liked.

    NOW is a whole different ballgame. On Youtube, eMusic, itunes, Amazon, etc. I can preview music from pretty much any obscure band from anywhere in the world…especially on Youtube!! Then I can generally go and buy it. Unlike the 80’s, now I can completely tailor my musical purchases exactly to my taste and don’t have to rely on what US big content is pushing. I have music from bands all over Europe(Off the top of my head, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, England, Portugal, Poland, Greece, Italy, France…at least), Brazil, Asia, and even Canada and the US, though local music is quickly falling in to a smaller and smaller minority!! Too much “formula” music is coming out of North America. I know I’ve said it several times, but back in the 80’s, other than those foreign acts US big content decided to support (Pink Floyd and Iron Maiden being good examples), much of this music was simply out of reach.

  43. Also if you look carefully at the graph. The sales of albums are about the same as in 1995 when there was no P2P phenomenon. The worker/middle class average income adjusted to inflation has not increased either since 1995. So what exactly changed? yes we had a surge in 2000. Interesting, maybe P2P boosted the sales? Then people started to lose interest when RIAA started suing grannies? Could this be the explanation?

    Then we have concerts. What happened there is that ticket prices skyrocketed too.


  44. Now seriously. There are so many factors involved if you want to analyze that graph. Like:

    – disposable income evolution
    – consumer sentiment (boom euphoria or recession hangover?)
    – back catalog sales due to a change in mainstream media
    – any new very successful current/genre/style/band introduced during the period
    – evolution of price of associated equipment (CD-player, amps, speakers etc)
    – any technological breakthrough that dramatically changes the quality of the recordings
    – and yes evolution of P2P too
    – etc


  45. Something that is also never considered
    I’ve never seen this considered in any study or article I’ve ever read. Compared to the music hayday of the 80’s and 90’s, music has much more competition these days.

    ** Home theatre no longer means a poor sounding grainy recording on a video tape. You can buy a decent 7.1 surround system with a nice 50ish inch HD TV or, if you have the room, a 100+ inch HD projector for less than $5000. You could spend a little less or considerably more on such a system, but $5000 would get you decent midrange system that would satisfy most people. The experience is not much different than that of a theatre and perhaps more enjoyable for many since you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home and can pause the movie when you need to pee. 😛

    ** These days, MANY teens (Especially male), traditionally the largest demographic buying music, are much more interested in video games than music…can anyone say Xbox 360 Live and PS3!!! Back when I was a teen, in the days of the Atari, the original Nintendo and when “King’s Quest” was still cutting edge, games were much more limited and you could still listen to music while playing. Becoming more predominant in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, games started becoming much more immersive and you had to be able to hear it or you’d miss important things. This equals less music. These days many games support full surround sound so you can actually hear if an enemy is coming up on you from behind and live chat so you can talk in real time with other on-line players. Now you’re totally immersed and your sound system, which was historically used for playing music is now used to create a 3D sound environment in your game. No room for music at all.

    ** Toys toys toys!!! Aside from video games, technical toys are much more prevalent than years ago. iPhones, iPods, iPads, Macbooks, computers, TVs, GPS, wireless everything, constant connection to friends through texting!!! It’s the gadgets that carry much more status these days. Back in the 80’s there were few gadgets that one could get or want to and even fewer that one could afford, so the size of the music collection meant a lot more then. These days, they don’t ask or even care how much music you have or what it is, but how much storage you have….”Oh man, you mean it’s only a 4G iPod…I WANTED A 32G!!!”

    ** Releasing albums less often, touring less and higher concert ticket prices will quite often mean less interest and almost certainly less album sales, especially if you’re releasing every 5 years rather than every year.

    ** There also seems more pressure to put your kids in sports and extracirricular activities than when I was a kid. Again, this equates to less time for media…less interest.

    I fully admit I am a product of the Nintendo generation. Unlike when I was a teen, these days I would MUCH rather play a game (video or board) or watch a movie than listen to music. I just bought 8 games on Steam since they have some wicked sales going on right now. I buy music to listen to in the car and at work and rarely listen to it at home. It’s a simple fact, if you consume less of something, you’ll spend less money on it. With a few exception, I could care less to see live music and even now, most of the concerts I’ve attended in recent years are of the bands I wanted to see when I was a teen to early 20s.

  46. …correction…
    I bought 17 games from Steam…3 of the 8 items I purchased where bundle packs. 🙂

  47. @Iamme

    In the late 1980s in Australia there was an attempt to introduce a ‘copyright’ “blank tape levy”. The high court of Australia struck it down( in a majority ruling) they found that by severing the direct nexus between the individual right holders consent (to making a copy) and payment to that same individual right holder the levy was too tax-like to be part of the Commonwealths Copyright Act ; The government could introduce special sales taxes on blank media (and anything else it saw fit to tax) BUT the collection of taxes is not a right of copyright societies, it is solely a right of elected governments.

    Also we created a uniform goods and services tax (GST) that did away with the distortions , rent seeking and endless special pleading by self-serving ‘cultural special’ lobby groups that are inevitable if governments fiddle around with special tax tariffs applying differently upon very similar items.

  48. Nap
    I am an artist- People get absurdly sentimental about ‘art’ , successful artists are ‘imaginative, unrelenting and ruthless’, the rest give up.
    Self publishing, contracting to a corporation , self managed copyright ,opting for max first sale price , using recordings as loss leaders to get paying audiences for the gig or opting for a collective copyright model, are all simply different business models an artist might choose to adopt as the way she conducts her trade. The efforts by the collectives to impose a monopoly business model /transaction tax are simply self serving, anti competitive , restrictions of the business models that artists can try.

  49. @John: “People get absurdly sentimental about ‘art'”

    I don’t. It’s just that we have those tax dodging millionaires that periodically pose as “starving artists” trying to get us emotional and hand them more money.

    If you say “NO” then they’ll cry “you’re killing art/innovation/whatever”. Fine. Let’s say “YES” but with a condition. Let’s check if they’re really artists and they’re really starving.


  50. Matisse once stated “solitude and silence – only the mediocre need fear it” People who hang around in collectives are not my kind. And people who want to control creatives are not creatives.

  51. No problem !
    You can tax my iPod no problem. But if you do, I will just stop to buy music and fill my iPod or iPhone with musc I didn’t pay for.

    You can’t have it both ways !