…you should never watch either one being made.” – Otto Von Bismarck
In Canada we pay a blank media levy on recordable compact discs, cassettes and hard drives. For example, we pay a hidden tax of 21 cents per recordable disc. This tax comprises as much as 75 per cent of the retail price. Until a court ruling late last year, we paid up to $25 in hidden tax when buying a MP3 player.
This tax money finds its way to the Canadian Private Copying Collective, a private organization charged with distributing the money among artists. In 2004, the organization had $40 million in revenues, compared to $7 million in 2000.
This is the price we pay for the right to make private copies of music. That’s right, copies of copyrighted music for personal use are legal, from mix-tapes to MP3s.
Bill C-60, which had its first reading in the House of Commons on June 20, aims to change this. The bill is being pushed by special interest groups like the Canadian Recording Industry Association to amend the Copyright Act in their favour.
One of the amendments concerns Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM are techniques designed to restrict the use of content. In other words, they prevent people from copying music CDs. Under Bill C-60 it will be copyright infringement to tamper with these technologies.
The trend towards DRM is growing among major music labels. Around 50 per cent of Sony BMG Music Entertainment’s new releases use DRM. To exercise your right to make a private copy of one of these CDs you would have to bypass the DRM, an issue in itself. With the amendments of Bill C-60 in place, you would be committing copyright infringement by bypassing the DRM, even if you intend only to make a private copy for personal use. This includes adding songs from a new CD to your MP3 player.
If Bill C-60 is passed, the government will have effectively given major labels the power to deny Canadians a right that costs them tens of millions of dollars per year. The Canadian government needs to decide whether it is committed to a blank media levy system or DRM, not both. A system in which Canadians compensate the music industry for a right they can’t legally exercise is a misuse of tax dollars.
Link O’ the Week:
Michael Gist is the Canada Research Chair in Internet & E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa. His website is great for those interested in law and technology.
Webcomic O’ the Week:
Sam and Fuzzy
Characters include a sadistic miniature bear-like creature, ninjas and a possessed fridge.
Free Application O’ the Week:
Not actually a program, but an advanced chat bot. Add “firstname.lastname@example.org” to your contacts if you’re using MSN messenger, “SmarterChild” to your buddy list if you’re using AOL or add “35000” to your contact list if you’re using ICQ and strike up a conversation.