Copyright and wrong

Consumers and businesses will be paying a lot more for their recordable media next January if the Canadian Private Copying Collective has its way, and you now have less than a week to do something about it.

The CPCC has applied to the Copyright Board of Canada to almost triple its levy on

blank CD-R and CD-RW disks (to $0.59 per disk!), and to extract a new levy from buyers of removable memory cards, micro hard drives and recordable DVD media. It also wants to raise the levy on audio cassettes.

Since the levy is collected by the CPCC from manufacturers and importers, this means that resellers of these items will be faced with considerably higher costs, as will their customers. Not only that, but because of the way the levy is collected, the final purchaser will have the privilege of paying GST and provincial taxes on it.

The rationale, says the CPCC, is that consumers are using these media to record music, and it seeks to compensate the artists and other stakeholders through the levy.

The fact that it is, in effect, declaring that every purchaser of recordable media is using it to steal music, and fining them in advance, appears to have escaped the CPCC.

Sure, it has published all sorts of fact sheets and position papers trying to justify the amounts it is requesting. It quotes “”reliable research”” that proves consumers purchase most of the CD-Rs sold, without specifying the source.

Yet, most companies I know of use substantial quantities of CD-Rs for legitimate, non-musical purposes. They distribute data (that has cost them money to generate) to their clients, as well as back up and archive files. Their costs will skyrocket if the CPCC gets its way.

For fun, I did the arithmetic and discovered the proposed levy on even our fairly modest usage would, over a year, be enough to purchase a PC.

The problem is twofold. It starts with a poorly thought-out law, which does not appear to recognize the possibility that (gasp) someone would record non-musical material. It contains no provisions for determining media usage, or for providing rebates for demonstrable data uses.

And its wording is sufficiently wooly that the definitions can be stretched in all sorts of directions. That gives the CPCC the opportunity to scoop up every penny it can, from all media sales. And since the notice that the levy is about to be set (usually for a two-year period) is in the Canada Gazette, many of those who would protest don’t even know what’s happening.

The Copyright Board, which sets the levies, does not have the power to correct any of these problems. It cannot dispense with the levy, or offer rebates to businesses. All it can do is determine the rates.

Two years ago, it substantially cut back the CPCC’s requested amounts. It will do so again, if it receives sufficient proof they’re too high.

That means businesses have to get involved, quickly, or have their media costs go through the roof.

Objections to the proposed levy rates must be filed by May 9. Full details (including the proposed rates) can be found on the Copyright Board’s Web site.


Lynn Greiner is vice-president, technical services for Ipsos-NPD Canada Inc. in Toronto and a Computing Canada editor at large. Shane Schick will return on Monday.

Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+
More Articles