My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, Ottawa Citizen version, Vancouver Sun version, homepage version) focuses on the plethora of new levy proposals that have emerged that could significantly increase the costs to consumers for Internet, television, and new media services. While cultural and creator groups are the primary proponents of these new funding schemes, they are by no means alone as broadcasters, cable companies, and Internet service providers have jumped into the levy and tariff game.
The cultural group proposals have focused primarily on Internet services. The best-known is the Songwriters Association of Canada plan to fully legalize peer-to-peer file sharing of music by adding a $5 monthly charge to the cost of Internet access. That proposal has generated considerable debate, with many consumers expressing concern about a plan that would hit all Internet users, without regard for whether they engage in peer-to-peer file sharing.
Joining the SAC plan is a recent proposal that has garnered support from a handful of creator groups that includes the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the Directors Guild of Canada, and Writers Guild of Canada. The proposal envisions the CRTC establishing a new mandatory ISP contribution of 2.5 percent of broadband revenue to help fund Canadian new media content creation.
Late last month, the groups released the results of a public opinion survey which they said found that "69 percent of Canadians believe that ISPs should be required to help fund the production of Canadian digital media content in the same way that cable and satellite TV providers are required to contribute a small percentage of their revenues to the production of Canadian television programs."
The proposals do not end there.