Money going to artists and record labels for their works is at risk in Canada’s current election, says the group responsible for collecting and distributing the private copying levy.
The Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC) is calling on Canadians to vote for a party that supports extending the current levy paid on blank CDs to iPods and other digital recording devices. The amount of money raised on CD purchases, at 29 cents per disc, is dwindling as consumers increasingly move to mp3 players instead of burning music to CDs, the group says. The copyright act should be updated accordingly.
Bill C-32, designed to update the Copyright Act for the first time since 2000, died in committee when the Conservative government was defeated and an election triggered. That bill made no mention of the private copying levy, and Conservative cabinet ministers have made it clear in the past they don’t favour a so-called “iPod tax” on Canadians in order to compensate artists.
Now David Basskin, a member of the CPCC board of directors, wants that bill changed to address the issue. While the CPCC won’t come out and actually endorse one party for the federal campaign, it is clear about the party it likes the least.
Conservative Party members “believe it’s wrong to pay for the use of someone else’s property,” Basskin says. “How that’s conservative, I don’t know, but I’ll leave it to them to explain it.”
The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have supported extending the levy to iPods in the House of Commons and the CPCC recognizes that, Basskin says. It could also live with a proposed Liberal plan to simply fund the CPCC with $35 million per year, equal to the amount it currently collects, without charging a levy on iPods.
“Our optimum case is to see our rights preserved. They are human rights as well as property rights,” he says. ““We would rather be able to achieve compensation for the use of our rights in the manner which we have since 1997.”
The fund to compensate artists is a political compromise recognizing that artists are currently creating works but not receiving fair value in exchange, says Marc Garneau, the Liberal’s critic for industry, science and technology. Many Canadians are downloading songs onto their iPods without paying for it, but it’s not a good idea to impose a levy on iPods or other devices.
“It’s not going to be practical and it’s not going to be well received,” he says. Rather, “a fund will be there to provide that payment and it will still be through the copying collective mechanism which is in place at the moment and working well.”
Liberals will seek an amendment to Bill C-32 to create the fund for the CPCC.
The CPCC says the levy paid by Canadians is for private copying of all recorded music, regardless of whether the original source was purchased or not. CPCC data shows that most Canadians are copying songs they haven’t paid for. In a Music Monitor Survey conducted between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, for 72 per cent of songs copied on Canadian digital audio recorders the original source was not owned by the copier. Pollsters conducted a monthly survey of 1,000 Canadians.
With numbers like that, iPod users may be interested to hear the Pirate Party of Canada‘s position on the private copying levy – though CPCC didn’t mention the party’s stance in its press release.
“We need to forget this attitude of trying to compensate for behaviour,” says Mikkel Paulson, the leader of the Pirate Party, and candidate for MP in the riding of Edmonton-Centre. “Any sort of levy implies there needs to be financial compensation for that behaviour and that’s simply not true.”
Related Story: Pirate Party of Canada seeks new captain
There’s no good system to correctly distribute money for copyright infringement, Paulson says. Relatively unknown artists aren’t likely to see a dime, while those already selling many records are compensated for assumed copying. Also, the sharing of music online is beneficial to musicians, who gain wider exposure for no cost.
The Liberal plan is no better than a levy, he adds. “That’s exactly the same as the levy, it’s just spreading it over more backs by disappearing it into the general budget.”
Paulson has a tough message for artists looking for compensation: “adapt.” He points to Toronto musician Brad Sucks, who gives all his music away for free online and accepts donations. Paulson says he’s donated to the artist.
Artists do need to wake up to the Internet shift and find new revenue generating opportunities, says Michael Geist, an Internet law expert based at the University of Ottawa. His own kids either listen to streaming music or download from online services that include the right to make copies in the price of the sale. Canadian artists are particularly well poised to cash in, he says.
“It’s a market place that has grown faster than the United States for five consecutive years,” Geist says.
The Liberal fund for CPCC would ideally act as a crutch for artists as they struggle to adapt to that new economic reality, Garneau says. “In the best of all words, it will sunset, when the evidence shows that people are paying for what they’re downloading.”
No matter what the government that gets elected on May 2 looks like, Basskin says he’ll be ready to talk to anyone in Ottawa willing to hear him out, and help the CPCC continue its mandate to compensate artists.
Campaign trail tunes
ITBusiness.ca asked both Garneau and Paulson what they were listening to on their iPods at the moment. Fittingly, both are plugged into Canadian artists at the moment. Garneau is listening to K.D. Lang’s Hymns of the 49th Parallel, a collection of covers of songs by other Canadian artists. Paulson is listening to Fembots, a Toronto indie-rock band that has released four albums.
Brian Jackson is Associate Editor at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.