iPod tax would ‘include exemptions’ for disabled, business groups

An iPod levy in Canada, if imposed, would have exemptions for the impaired and others who don’t copy music to recordable media, says a director the Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC).

See the other videos and articles in this series:

  • Part 1: Should Canada impose an iPod levy? Copyright experts debate issue
  • Part 2: ‘iPod tax’ debate – Who should tell Canadians about the levy?

David Basskin, CPCC director, took part in a video round table hosted by ITBusiness.ca and discussed the idea of extending an existing levy that charges Canadians 29 cents per blank CD or minidisc and 24 cents per blank cassette tape.

That levy has been in effect for more than eight years, and now some in the music industry are asking that it be updated to include iPods and other mp3 players.

ITBusiness.ca readers speak out

“I’m 100 per cent opposed to the levy”. Ken Faircloth

“They want me to BUY the music and then PAY them extra for the private copying of my own CD onto my iPod? Screw them!” – Flabbergasted

The levy is “absolutely idiotic.” – A reader

Ongoing government copyright consultations are providing an opportunity to reform Canada’s copyright act after a period of public consultation. The government has been hosting town halls, round table discussions, calling for written submissions and running a Web forum to collect opinions on the issue.

At issue is how to properly balance the rights of copyright owners and those who purchase copyrighted works.

One way to ensure fairness is to make sure proper exceptions are built into any levy imposed on iPods, Basskin says. Such exceptions have already been created by the CPCC, in particular for the perceptually disabled.

“We have a very widespread zero-rating program which nets us no money, which costs us money to administer,” he says. “So where people are making extensive use of the discs … they don’t have to pay the levy.”

Certain groups can buy blank media royalty free in Canada after filling out an online submission, according to the CPCC Web site. Those who can apply for the exemption include educational institutions, broadcasters, law enforcement agencies, advertising agencies, entertainment industries, courts and court reporters, religious organizations, telemarketing firms, software companies, duplication facilities, firms duplicating data for business use, and more.

Students should also be exempted from paying such a levy, suggested Justin Williams, secretary with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. It is becoming more commonplace for post-secondary schools to use portable mp3 players as tools for students to listen to lectures and research notes.

“There’s a clear understanding that properly paying for the material that we take from someone makes sense,” he says. “The question is, how do we do that in a way that doesn’t take away someone’s ability to use the product in the way they see fit?”

The CPCC collects the levy to compensate musicians for the private copies that consumers make of their works, Basskin says. For example, you may download music from the iTunes store and then burn it on to a CD. The idea of the levy is to reward the artist for that copy of their work that now exists in two places.

“There is no distinction between a blank CD and the use of an iPod,” Basskin says. “We’re seeking and getting a levy on the media people are using to copy music.”

Since 1997, when the Copyright Act created the opportunity for such a levy, things have changed considerably, he adds.

But it is too difficult to determine who should be paid and in what amount, says an intellectual property lawyer with Ludlow Law.

“It will take constant surveys,” says David Allsebrook, with Toronto-based Ludlow Law. “Also, what do you do with the people who are copying works belonging to third parties that aren’t part of this collective?”

The CPCC does indeed have a program to seek out so-called “orphans” to compensate for their works, Basskin responds.

“The Copyright Act requires the CPCC to hold money for those who aren’t represented by any of the constituent collectives,” he explains.

Meanwhile, ITBusiness.ca readers seemed unenthusiastic about an iPod levy to compensate musicians. In the comments made to part one of this series, and in letters, readers expressed their dismay at the very concept of such a levy.

“I am 100 per cent opposed to the levy,” writes reader Ken Faircloth, with Ottawa-based Kanatek. “I have paid for that right when I bought the music the first time.”

Other readers seemed to agree with that assessment.

“They want me to BUY the music and then PAY them extra for the private copying of my own CD onto my iPod? Screw them!” writes flabbergasted, in the comments section.

Another user describes the levy as “absolutely idiotic” and another claims copying purchased music to CDs or an iPod is “fair use.”

When reached for comment on the issue, Apple declined to provide one.

The copyright consultation runs until Sept. 13, and the Internet forum will be receiving comments until then.

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