Thursday, June 12, 2008

Does this mean we can ditch the levy? Don't hold your breath

I'm killing time at the airport, enjoying the Maple Leaf Lounge and, having listened to my MP3 player on the way here I was thinkng about copyright issues, given the bill on the subject the Conservatives tabled in the HoC today:

The federal government tabled new legislation Thursday morning designed to make it easier to track and prosecute anyone caught downloading copyrighted files, such as music and movies, from the Internet.

Industry Minister Jim Prentice and Heritage Minister Josée Verner lifted the veil on the long-anticipated legislation at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

Under the proposed legislation, anyone caught downloading copyrighted material online could face a fine of $500. Individuals may still be liable for other types of damages or remedies. The current Copyright Act allows for a maximum fine of $20,000.

That's fine in theory, illegal downloading is, well, illegal, although I think prosecutions of the kid that downloads a few songs like we've seen in the U.S. are a waste; go after thge big fish. It's not that the record companies haven't tried in Canada though; the courts have slapped them down. Hence, I suppose, this legislation.

What caused the courts to favour downloaders in these cases in the past is the levy that is, well, levied on every piece of recordable media in Canada, from the hard drives in MP3 players to blank CDs and DVDs. The proceeds are redistributed to artists, and are intended to compensate them for lost revenue from illegal downloading of copyrighted material.

Downloaders argued, and as I recall the courts agreed, that the levy represented a tacit permission to download material freely. In essence, we were paying for it through the levy.

The levy also wrongly assumes everyone is guilty, whether they use the blank media to copy illegal material, legally-purchased material or their own vacation photos.

If you want to make it easier for the record companies to go after illegal downloaders, if you want to crack down on file sharing, that's fine. But at the same time the government should also repeal the levy, and not let the record companies have their cake and eat it too.

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