I’ve never been comfortable with the mentality, seemingly unique to Canada, that justifies putting taxes on blank media. Having music artists get a piece of every blank cassette or CD was a presumption of guilt that anyone buying such media was doing it in order to rip off creative authors and artists

While in most other societies the concept of “original sin” is the realm of religion, in Canada we have it built into public policy.

And what’s been bad public policy on blank media is about to get worse if the same nasty philosophies start imposing themselves on Canadian use of the Internet. The actions of Access Copyright, in its efforts to charge per-user fees to various groups in return for threat-free Internet use, amounts to nothing less than a virtual protection racket.

It certainly isn’t letting complete ignorance of how the Internet works interfere with its plans.

For Canada to stay competitive in the world of ideas and innovation, these most outrageous plans must fail.

The Internet already has many mechanisms in place that balance public access to content with paid access to premium content, when that is what the publisher of such content intends.

One need look no further than The Globe and Mail to see how this works. Want to see the news of the day? That’s freely available to you or me, with ads helping to generate revenue for the publisher. However, if you want to read Rex Murphy online, that’ll cost you cash up front.

Subscriptions to the Globe’s “Insider Edition” are easy to sign up for online, and are often sold with marketing tricks such as free trial periods.

Going a step further, the Toronto Star allows free access to stories seven days old, but to get to older stuff you can either buy a subscription or pay for specific articles.

Book publishers have similar methods of using the Internet to balance access to free content with charging for access to premium stuff.

No less than 24 book publishers (including Microsoft Press and Prentice Hall) participate in Safari, the subscription online book-access system created by O’Reilly.

Yet many of these publishers offer free pages or whole chapters of books for free as teasers. Subscriptions are available per-month and per-year, and users can select what level – what size of “bookshelf” ­­- they’re prepared to pay for.

Other models, such as the one from lulu.com, allow authors to be compensated for their works online without needing publishers. Isn’t this how the market-place is supposed to work? Competing producers set the price and consumers choose which products or services are worth that price?

The Access Copyright scheme is a monopolistic one that can’t be opted out of by individuals who don’t want its so-called protected content.

Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+