iPod Tax Fight Conceals Another Consumer Copyright Fee Hike

The Conservatives have launched another campaign over the iPod Tax today complete with website, video and Twitter account. I posted a lengthy account  of the claims last December (short version – the Liberals on record now as opposing, the earlier record is open to debate), but the issue keeps returning.  Given the attention to the issue, it is worth noting that Bill C-32, the Conservatives own copyright bill, would likely have led to a doubling of the fees that Canadians pay on blank CDs. Alternatively, it would have led to a dramatic reduction in revenues for Canadian artists. The reason stems from the government’s commitment to ratify the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Internet treaties and the legal requirements found in those treaties.

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore has gone on record confirming that Bill C-32 would allow for ratification of the WIPO Internet treaties, telling the Bill C-32 Legislative Committee that “what is in this legislation – the ratification of WIPO, the fair-dealing policy, the digital protection measures – is a huge victory for all Canadians.”

Yet what Moore did not say is that ratification of the WIPO Internet treaties requires Canada to provide “national treatment” to all artists (in other words, treat Canadian and foreign performers equally). Since the current private copying levy system does not provide national treatment, this would likely lead to a substantial increase in payments from Canadian consumers to foreign performers and makers and minimal increase in payments from foreign consumers to Canadian makers and performers.

According to documents I recently obtained under the Access to Information Act, the Department of Justice has concluded that Canada’s current private copying levy system does not comply with the WIPO Internet treaties. In order to comply with the treaties, the private copying levy system would have to be expanded to include foreign record companies and performers.   A 2005 Industry Canada commissioned study estimated that this would result in either (1) a doubling of the current levy (at the time as much as $35 million per year) almost all of which would immediately leave the country, or (2) the current levy could remain unchanged, but Canadian record companies and performers would find their share cut roughly in half.  In other words, Canadian consumers either pay millions more or Canadian creators lose millions in revenue.

Raising questions about the parties’ position on copyright and the private copying system is certainly fair game. But if the Liberals are asked to respond to iPod Tax claims, perhaps the Conservatives should explain why they left the prospect of millions more in consumer copyright fees or millions in lost revenue for creators under the existing system untouched in their copyright bill.


  1. Please check your minds at the door …
    I suspect the conservatives would go the route of increasing outgoing income to foreign ahem#RIAA#cough interests over supporting Canadian talent. After all that would ‘keep the American’s happy’*

    *quote attributed to Stephen Harper on copyright legislation matters.

    I also find the disingenuous misinformation about the ‘iPod tax’, both in the stands of the parties and the amounts in question, to be insulting. Even worse are those who swallow this blather as spoon fed candy.

    Oh for the time, when people will say what they mean and mean what they say.

  2. Oh wait … Here’s someone saying what they mean after all 😀

  3. Who uses CDs anymore? I doubt the levy is still at those 2005 levels so I’m not sure where your going on this.

  4. In all honesty and to put it bluntly, if you care about personal liberties and freedoms; Conservative is not the party to put a vote behind.

  5. Mitch Krol says:

    The Law doesn’t apply to Harper’s Conservatives…
    This from the party who had video of Harper playing Imagine by John Lennon, only to have Yoko Ono, who owns the rights to the song, have it pulled for copyright infringement!

    re your article; as a professional musician / composer I’m totally against Bill C-32.

  6. Their motto
    It seems that the conservatives have cynically adopted Coebbels’ motto : “Mentez, mentez, il en restera toujours quelque chose !”

  7. I don’t understand by the NDP or the Greens try to get more of the “nerd vote” (see link above to macleans article). Yes an extra tax sucks, so to speak. But there are way more important issues concerning that which was Bill C-32.

    All parties boast they are in favour of “fair copyright”. But what is “fair copyright”? And fair between whom? Copyright exists to allow “artists” to control that-which-they-have-made-public to be treated as if it were private property *for a limited time* in order to “promote creativity”. This is undeniably true, as no one in their right mind would invest in something only to see others/everyone (legally) run away with it as soon as you release it. Fairness needs to exist between the interests of the creators on the one side, and those pf the public on the other. I miss the explicit acknowledgment of the existence of public interests in matters of copyright in ALL platforms.
    How long should a “limited time” be? BigPharma invests billions in new medications to have a patent for 20 years, after which everyone is free to create these new medications. And they still do so, knowing full well it’s only exclusive for 20 years. Why should this be any different for musical recordings or movies? The public domain [defined as ‘commercial’ works for which the copyright expired] for music is practically non-existent! Why is that? Why can I legally download hundreds (if not thousands) of formerly copyrighted books from Project Gutenberg, but can I download ZERO music albums? Isn’t that strange? Isn’t it strange that I even have to bring up this notion of a music public domain?
    Which party is going to make the interests of the public an issue? Here’s a great opportunity! To make culture available to everyone, there’s no better way to promote culture than to make it free, after a reasonable amount of time expired to allow the creator to reap the rewards of their work.

    How can there by fairness in Digital restrictions at all? Why aren’t the NDP and the Greens guaranteeing consumers the exercise of their rights? If I am allowed to “rip” a CD I bought, can I still do so when the TOC is mangled, err, I mean an effective copy protection is present? If I am allowed to record TV shows using a DVR, can I still do so when a certain broadcast flag is set? What good is a right you cannot exercise? It might as well be taken away and just be honest about it instead of backdoor-ing it.

    Fair use? I don’t think I’ve seen these words “fair use” in ANY of the platforms, but in the world of Youtube and Facebook there is great need to clarify of what “fair use” should be. So why does this remain hidden? Why don’t we know what direction the parties want to move to? Be generous? Be restrictive? Not a peep on fair use.

    If you ask me (and I know you didn’t but I will say it anyway), players who play a certain card game organize their good cards in “keepers” and in “traders” and discard the rest. The keepers they will keep, the traders they’ll be content to keep, but they’ll trade it if they can get something better. I have the impression that digital consumer rights are always in the “traders” category. NDP will trade it away for any health care issues they can “win”. Greens will trade it away for any environmental issues they can “win”. Unless the voters themselves start bringing these things up the next time the candidate shows up at your door, your digital rights will remain in the “trader” category.

  8. Tech not a government strength
    In yet another example of a complete lack of technical depth, the ipodtax site is registered using a parliamentary address. Tsk, tsk.

  9. Bill C32 would have led to the doubling of the fees that we pay on blank CD’s? That’s *VERY* interesting, considering CD’s are a digital storage medium, and under C32, a person is not allowed to make even a private copy of something that has a digital lock on it without permission from the copyright holder… and it is a foregone certainty that were C32 to pass, that the availability of newly published commercial works after that point that did not have any digital locks would radically diminish (since publishers would be gaining significant commercial incentive to utilize them because of the legal consequences someone would face if they are broken) to the point that a consumer would not have any really effective choice to consume unlocked works, and thus not have the ability to exercise the private copying privilege that the blank CD fee is supposedly for. Meanwhile, any unlocked works would generally be viewed as little more than “quaint” or “archaic”, and rarely taken seriously by anybody.

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