California Internet tax bill breakdown by Stephanie Robogeisha (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

California Internet tax bill breakdown by Stephanie Robogeisha (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Canadian Music Group Calls For Copyright Tax on Broadband Data Use

The hearings into Canadian copyright have resumed at both the Industry and Canadian Heritage committees with witnesses making the case for a wide range of reforms. While Bryan Adams received the lion share of attention last week for his proposal to assist creators with quicker reversion of their rights, another proposal from the Screen Composers Guild of Canada (SCGC) deserves some scrutiny as an illustration of how many groups want new taxes or fees imposed on Internet services and technologies. I’ve written in the past about the music industry’s call for a tax on iPhones and other devices as well as its proposal for a $40 million per year taxpayer handout in until an iPhone tax can be implemented. This week the SCGC introduced a new proposal that would subject broadband data use to a copyright tax.

Members of the SCGC write the musical scores for films and television. They are paid for this work, but argue that the potential for additional public performance royalties have diminished as viewing has shifted to streaming services. Their proposed solution is establish a mandated copyright tax on all broadband data use in Canada. The group proposes that the first 15 GB of use should be tax free, suggesting that the free use will cover emails and other basic uses. For everything above that amount, the copyright tax on data would apply:

We envision a new “internet-light ISP service” that could form the exchange of revenue that we refer to as the SCGC Copyright Model (SCGC-CM). It would allow home internet users fifteen gigabytes of unlevied data per-month, enabling ample room for email, commerce and downloading, but beyond that, a copyright levy could be collected and re-mitted to a collective for distribution to copyright holders.

At committee, the group expanded on the argument:

An ISP subscription levy that would provide a minimum or provide a basic 15 gigabytes of data per Canadian household a month that would be unlevied. Lots of room for households to be able to do Internet transactions, business, share photos, download a few things, emails, no problem. But my own personal experience is that in my family, when you’re downloading and consuming over 15 gigabytes of data a month, you’re likely streaming Spotify. You’re likely streaming YouTube. You’re likely streaming Netflix. So we think because the FANG companies will not give us access to the numbers that they have, we have to apply a broad-based levy. They’re forcing us to.

The proposal is faulty on many grounds. First, increasing Internet costs will have undoubtedly have an impact on access, particularly for low-income Canadians. Second, the notion that use above 15 GB surely involves video or audio streaming misunderstands how many use the Internet today, whether for real-time gaming, online video discussions, software development, and a myriad of other activities. Third, the SCGC proposal would represent double-payment by consumers, who would pay to access the content on services such as Spotify and Netflix and pay for the transmission of the same content with the ill-advised copyright tax on broadband data.


  1. Mark LaPointe says:

    This argument to tax internet usage is a remnant of the days Napster an linewire.

    As someone who uses many terrabytes of internet traffic from home, none of which is used to pirate material, I find this will have a negative impact on conducting business within Canada.

    Not only would this have a negative impact on ISPs, by placing infrastructure to measure everyone’s use (if they don’t already have it), but this is a pointless venture for the public when there are many technologies available to thwart piracy by a significant margin.

    Now piracy still exists, but I don’t think it is as wide spread since the market has many online options for legal consumption.

    And with the way the world is going, just browsing the web will be more than 15GB a month.

    This group is outlandish, and it’s a cash grab.

    Very flawed.

  2. Not how it works, my dear little Bernard Herrmanns.
    You are hired by and recompensed by the film’s producer. Should you have some kind of royalty deal with the producer if the film is wildly popular, that’s between you and the producer. But the audience doesn’t pay more.
    If a feature film is successful in the cinemas, ticket prices don’t increase so you can be paid more.

  3. richmond2000 says:

    another example of “middle men” trying to enrich themselves at the public’s cost
    and is an example of double billing
    as a consumer I am paying my ISP to support the system for access to ANY source
    and AM paying spotify / Youtube / netflix ETC for access to media and those companies are PAYING to LICENCE the material that I am paying for ANDS paying to have delivered so now a LICENCING body wants royalties for the delivery of the content AFTER I paid for it and supported the delivery network

    it is like Samsung getting money from UPS when I order ANYTHING from AMAZON even if it is NOT a SAMSUNG device

    software development can burn through 10X that amount of data downloading and uploading project components and tools etc and if you use offsite storage OR rendering engines ETC the data will climb from there

    also this proposal “forces” a metered internet even after most ISPs have gone unlimited
    and will make the cell data costs in Canada climb an they are already so expensive to hinder access

  4. I bought a stack of 100 DVDs for my DVD burner. Since I paid the levvy, I assume that means it is perfectly legal for me to find free sources of up to 900GB of media and download it so long as I burn it to the DVDs?

  5. The biggest inhibition for creatives today is the weight of copyrights held by a few non-practicing individuals.

    If we can’t do anything to restrict copyrighted works by volume or breadth, the only way out is to tax income earned by warehousing copyrights.

  6. This is just terrible. I can’t tell whether the notion that anyone who uses more than 15GB a month should owes music/movie artists is ignorant or knowingly greedy. Also extremely out of touch, 15GB is nothing. High volumes of bandwidth in my case comes from scientific computing; complete datasets are commonly at the terabyte scale and above. Then second main use is downloading software and games (not playing them, just downloading to be able to install them) and then actually playing them. Why should the SCGC get even a penny on my back for that? They shouldn’t.

    The argument is so poorly presented too. Anecdotes like “In my household” and presumption that you’re “likely” streaming this and that. They don’t even what they’re asking for, they just know there’s money and they want some of it.

    For this to even work, you need by definition to know what people are using their ISP for, which is a breach of privacy. I have no respect for the SCGC or what they’re asking.

    • Neil Schwartzman says:

      No necessarily. The protocol used can help to identify the type POV content being transmitted

      • Devil's Advocate says:

        Yeah, that process is called packet inspection, which is part of a harmful data mining agenda. This can only be performed on those who are not using a VPN during the download. And, the majority of those who pirate content use VPNs anyway.

        So, the answer is “Yes, necessarily.”

    • Indeed anecdotally, videogames on PS4 nowadays can be upwards of 60Gb to download just for a single game. And as time passes and the push for ever better looking games this can only grow.

  7. Frank Bradley says:

    This is nuts. I am a software developer and transfer about 4gb per week of which none of the data transmitted contains any copyrighted material (music, books etc) so why should I be required to pay this special tax just because they have not been able to rethink their greedy business model and want everybody to pay them no matter what.

    Just bottom feeds

  8. Devil's Advocate says:

    All these clueless groups demanding internet fees for various content use are going to be in for a bigger surprise down the road, as various players on the Internet are moving to decentralized communication and distribution of content.

    In the end, there may not even be ISPs to make demands of or deals with, and all transmissions will be encrypted, obfuscated and untrackable.

    This is inevitable, and the process has only been ramped up, thanks to all the big players that want to sell out the users’ data, privacy, and other rights, while trying to facilitate a fascist takeover of the Internet at large.

  9. time to leave the net for good

  10. DeathOfOnlineGamig says:

    so 15 gb you get charged X ….
    you play a game on weekend and use 150 gb bandwidth you get charged 10X

    this = no play = no game developing cause they get no money ….= unemployment
    t also pushes single player games more. NONE of the big boys do that and oens that are are putting lootboxes and microtransactions in them so they are so expensive they too are not worth it

    add the new extra 20 year copyright ( we had until htis star trek The original series in public domain ) well ….oh well
    70 years + life a author = NO benefit to me or society
    end of story on all this…and they wont stop until everyone is forced ot pay a music tax regardless of you owning or buying it

    screw musicans and actors and hollywood and them all , a bunch a rapists and pedophiles and here you all are giving these sickoes more

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  12. Phil Lewis says:

    Yes, years ago we had the blank CD levy and then the levy imposed on MP3 players.

    The SGCG is not entitled to an income and cannot paint everyone with the broad brush of “pirates”. The Internet has been around for 20 years. They have had plenty of time to find out ways to monetize and distribute their content in a manner that allows them to generate income.
    It’s their failure to innovate and keep up with the times that affects their members.

    I’ll make it very clear to my MP that they are not to support this.

    15GB? I use that with Netflix in a couple of days. Which I pay my $10/month.

    • > I use that with Netflix in a couple of days. Which I pay my $10/month.

      Sadly, I think folks like you are exactly the target. These sleezeballs think you aren’t paying enough so they want to impose a tax to make you pay again for what you already paid for.

      They also don’t really care that they’ll be taxing basically anything that’s not even remotely related to streaming media. After all who will object to getting more money?

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  22. Van Darkholme says:

    In first-world countries sideshows like SCGC would be laughed out of the room for even hinting at making such outrageous demands on such hysterical grounds, but here in Canada they not only get the spotlight but are allowed to continue to practice business. Furthermore, they still somehow continue to make enough money to *stay* in business in spite of their profound inebriation. I suppose it’s a fitting choir for the catastrophe that is the Liberal government, but it’s still bamboozling to witness such rampant, destructive behavior by people who actually have some kind of power over the lives of others and few observers even bat an eye.

  23. Jason Mabbott says:

    Instead of creating salable product in the 21st corporations use law suits, exploitative trade agreements, and government taxes to make their profits. This is despotism. History shows us it never ends well.


    That link will show you what Bell calls “Low Usage Plan”

    A Tax on every internet user on Canada who goes over 15gigs? Prove that it is because I’m pirating, and not gaming, and I’ll gladly pay.

    Napster was the first problem, and in 25 years the only solution from the entire music industry has been some form of tax, usually misdirected.

    Talk about un-creative thinking.

    ps – someone tell Ubisoft that they have a large bill coming their way.

  25. Roger Rondeau says:

    What i dont understand from all of this is that those who have netflix and u-tube already pay for this programming. So why should they pay again. Please explain to me if i am wrong?

  26. So let me get this straight… I pay every month for Neflix, Acorn TV, and Amazon Prime to get content legally, and these clowns want to load additional fees on top?

    These clowns are braindead. If these constant attempts to milk us for more cash by moving the goalposts are the future, I might as well just go back to using Pirate Bay and be done with it…

  27. Click on the link on the top for your free music download process.