Canada's Copyright Board Shuts Down Industry's Request For 'You Must Be A Criminal Tax' On MicroSD Cards

from the moore's-law-is-a-constant,-your-blank-media-levy-shouldn't-be dept

The Copyright Board of Canada (CBC) is hastening the demise of the "you must be a criminal" tax on blank media, at least in Canada. Granted, it's chosen to allow the $0.29 per blank CD tariff to continue until that media form's eventual demise, but it seems to be offering that to the CPCC (Canadian Private Copying Collective) in lieu of something it wanted much, much more -- a tariff on microSD cards. (It could also be a form of stasis -- something easier to maintain than uproot. The decision points out that levies on cassette tapes continued all the way through 2009.)

Even though it is allowing the levy on CDs to continue, the CCB points out how ridiculous this action is.

Blank CDs are low-price, low-margin goods. Increasing the per unit levy on them probably leads to an increase in price. Triggering an increase in the price of a good close to or at the end of its life cycle through an external factor such as a levy imposed by a government agency seems absurd.
Absurd? Absolutely. But there's nothing about applying a "you must be a criminal" tax to blank media that isn't.

There are several problems inherent in the CPCC's tariff demands, not the least of which is the application of static rates to technology that increases in capacity while dropping in price. Here's what the CPCC proposed back in 2011:
CPCC proposed to maintain the current rate of 29¢ per blank CD and to set rates of 50¢ per microSD card of one gigabyte or less, $1.00 per card of more than one but less than eight gigabytes, and $3.00 per card of eight gigabytes or more. It argued that both blank CDs and microSD cards qualify as audio recording media and that the proposed rates are reasonable.
And here's what's wrong with that proposal according to Michael Geist:
The financial impact of the levy would be significant. A 2GB SD card currently sells for about $6.00 and this would add an additional dollar or almost 15% to the cost. Given that the levy would remain static (or even increase) but the costs of SD cards are dropping by roughly 30% annually, the percentage of levy in the overall cost would likely gradually increase over time. Moreover, music plays a small role in the use of memory cards. A recent report indicates that digital cameras are the primary market for SD cards with smartphones the second biggest (and fastest growing) market. Music is a small part of the equation, yet the CPCC is demanding payment for every memory card sold in Canada regardless of its intended or actual use.
Geist wrote this back in 2011 when the CPCC was pursuing a tariff on nearly every form of blank media. Since then, prices have continued to drop and storage capacity has expanded, which would make the tariff the most significant portion of the purchase price if allowed. And, of course, the CPCC was basing this on the assumption that consumers primarily buy media cards in order to store pirated content, something that clearly isn't true. (This argument is also deployed by entities like the MPAA in reference to other technological advances -- for instance, it expressed concern that faster internet speeds will just help people infringe more efficiently.)

The CPCC must have at least partially understood the uphill battle it was fighting as it abandoned every other form of memory except microSD cards in September of 2011. Then the Canadian government gave it the shaft when it excluded microSD cards from tariffs with legislation enacted on October 18, 2012. What all this activity boils down to is the CPCC fighting for a chance to collect a retroactive tariff on microSD cards sold between Jan. 1, 2012 and October 17, 2012.

Even in that limited window, the CBC has chosen not to allow CPCC to pursue this tariff, primarily because the costs of determining what amount should be collected and the collection efforts themselves would far outweigh the income received, especially since the CCB would not allow the CPCC to use its outdated methodology (see above) to determine the levy rate.
[T]he royalties generated would most likely be relatively modest, and certainly less than what CPCC proposed for the following reasons. CPCC’s proposed rates rely on the Stohn/Audley model which determines royalty rates as the product of a price per track and the number of tracks copied onto the blank media. The price per track is the same for both microSD cards and blank CDs: one cannot expect it to be higher for the former than the latter. But because of its reliance on the number of tracks copied, the model tends to generate high royalty rates for microSD cards. Having decided to abandon the model for blank CDs, we would not use it either to set a levy on microSD cards. As a result, a strong possibility exists that the amounts to distribute would be less than the costs entailed in collecting and distributing the levy…

When taken as a whole, the circumstances of this case make any attempt at certifying a fair and equitable tariff for microSD cards impossible. The determination, implementation and enforcement of any potential tariff will almost inevitably be largely futile, certainly unfair and considerably disruptive. This is an exceptional situation, one that lends itself to the proper exercise of our discretion to refuse to certify a tariff not because of a lack of evidence, but because any tariff we would set would be, under these very special circumstances, manifestly unfair and inequitable.
The CBC does note, however, that its decision not to certify this tariff doesn't completely shut down every avenue the CPCC might want to take in pursuit of fees it clearly believes it's owed. It offers up this possible angle, which seems to contain a bit of a jab in the direction of industries that have tried to litigate themselves back into profitability.
Private parties are free to litigate even when this makes no economic sense. An application before the Board is not a civil cause of action.
So, there's that, if the CPCC wants it. The consumer certainly doesn't and probably doesn't appreciate being charged a "pirate tax" for media that very possibly will be filled with content of their own creation.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 3:30am

    We have said it a million times but it bears repeating. Blank media levies are bullshit. They punish those who do not pirate by making them have to pay more for HDs, SD cards etc; and they give those who do pirate the justification to go on pirating. In fact, I do not pirate but I would take a blank media levy as license to start.

    If you are going to be treated like a criminal, you may as well be one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 3:38am

    This is what happens when you let dinosaurs rule the earth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 3:53am

    Re:

    Dinosaurs? These people are flees on the dinosaurs of record labels.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Thomas MacCallum, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 3:54am

    How much?

    29c pirate take on a CD?
    Here in the UK, if you buy a spindle of 50, they are 8p each, I make that 10 Canadian cents. Thatís 290% of the product value!
    Who the hell agreed to that?

     

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  5.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 3:56am

    Everyone owes us money!!
    Anyone who is successful, owes us money.
    Anyone who makes money, only does it by stealing from us!

    It is nice to see some pushback finally, as they try to apply nonsensical systems of old to new things.
    Who knows, if they get told enough maybe they'll update their playbook to the 1980s.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 4:29am

    Who pirates onto CDs or MicroSD cards anyway?

    Anybody who's actually serious about the process is no doubt using multi-terabyte disk drives. They're cheap, they're fairly reliable, they hold far more, and even with the added bulkiness of external enclosures, they're still easy to store.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Wolfy, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 4:35am

    Criminality Taxes

    It's like saying "Because criminals live in houses, all houses must be taxed."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Guardian, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 4:43am

    ONLY reason to get rid of levies

    FUCKING LAWYERS THEN SUE EVERYONE CREATING THE SAME SHIT AS THE USA...


    FUCK THE SPYING SACKS A SHIT USA

     

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  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Guardian, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 4:44am

    and consumers dont mind paying a levy

    only thos ethat pirate hevy duty and lawyers want rid of it cause they both can then see more bucks from illegal sales OR lawsuits

    the rest of us would like some fuckin peace

    and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    btrussell (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 4:47am

    Re:

    "In fact, I do not pirate but I would take a blank media levy as license to start."

    With all the licenses I have purchased in my lifetime, all the levied money I have paid, I figure I have a right to a set of google glasses with open access to the labels library of music up to the year 2000. sony can foot the bill for the glasses as an apology for the root-kit.

     

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  11.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 4:56am

    Wrong Target

    Stop complaining about pirates. Things will even out once we get rid of the leeches in the industry.

    Pirates do not steal, they infringe. Leeches are directly taking real money they haven't earned.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 5:37am

    Re: ONLY reason to get rid of levies

    I thought this story was about some BS in Canada ... checks story ... yup, right there in the title even.

    Oh well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 6:04am

    had certain people not have been able to be bribed in the first place, this tax would never have happened. as it did, the ridiculous thing about it is that people are being charged an extra tax because of 'pirating media files'. the normal thing is, if you are charged extra for something, you can then do it. here, you are charged for downloading content, usually in the form of music or movies, but still cant download them! how absolutely ridiculous and one sided is that? accused of doing an illegal act, charged extra on media to compensate, but still taken to court if caught downloading!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    DannyB (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 6:08am

    Re: Who pirates onto CDs or MicroSD cards anyway?

    Yes. However, microSD cards plug in to your phone or tablet so you can watch movies, listen to music, or read eBooks anywhere.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    DannyB (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 6:09am

    Re:

    So if I buy music on Amazon and put it on my micro SD card, in my phone, so I can listen to it anywhere, have I now paid twice for the same music?

    Does this count as piracy credit so that I can now feel free to pirate an equivalent amount of music as I purchased?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 6:14am

    Re: Wrong Target

    Collection Societies as they are euphemistically called, are true leeches and pirates. Multiple of these leeches collect for and claim to represent the same works. They claim to represent works that they don't own. And they claim to represent works that are public domain. And they keep it all, paying nothing to artists whose interest they claim to represent.

    They should be done away with. But I would settle for some extremely hefty penalties that make it cheaper for them to get their house in order and do proper bookkeeping and accounting of exactly what they own and from who they collect, and how much the artists get paid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 6:17am

    If only we had a 'you must be a criminal' tax on things that actually can cause real harm, like guns.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 7:14am

    Or politicians.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    HMTKSteve, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 7:25am

    Levy vs. lawsuit

    If they are applying a levy based on the presumption that illegal copying will take place how can they also sue people for illegal copying?

    Doesn't the payment of the levy inoculate the consumer from being sued? Or do they only sue based on the distribution and not the actual copying?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 7:35am

    Re:

    They punish those who do not pirate


    In addition, what about people like me? I intentionally avoid giving money to businesses who engage in practices I disagree with. These laws force me to subsidize those businesses.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Joel, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 7:43am

    Re:

    "If you are going to be treated like a criminal, you may as well be one."

    Yep, that pretty much nails it on the head.

    When I was in university, I used to buy 6-8 CDs a month. And then I got a car with a CD player instead of a cassette deck (yes, I'm dating myself)

    When I got nailed with the "you must be a criminal" levies on buying blank CDs to make mix CDs, and then had a huge levy (~$30 as I recall) on the first gen iPod... well, if they want to treat me like a criminal, then I might as well download my music anyways. And my CD buying rapidly decreased as a result.

    Not that this legally justifies my actions of course. But if you want to treat people like criminals, don't be surprised if start acting like it as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 8:10am

    I think it's retarded that MicroSD cards have an intentional limit of 32 GB and whoever responsible for this should be publicly scrutinized.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 8:11am

    Re:

    you have my permission to pirate with extreme prejudice...

    signed,
    the inernet

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 8:14am

    Re:

    exactly: seems prudent to PRESUME that ALL politicians are bribe-taking scumbags of low moral character, so we should preemptively jail ALL OF THEM...

    makes more sense than THEIR scheme...
    ...and would give better results for society ! ! !

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 8:20am

    Re: Who pirates onto CDs or MicroSD cards anyway?

    You can't listen to a multi terabyte disk drive in the car or on the train.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 8:36am

    Re: How much?

    I'm surprised there isn't blank CD smuggling from the USA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 8:37am

    Re: Re: How much?

    The USA has a blank media tax as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 8:51am

    Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    allengarvin (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 9:08am

    Wow, so every CD-R sold in Canada is an "audio CD-R"!

    Remember those, in the last days of record stores? Sold near the cash register, marked up because of the royalties paid to music industry? They had great little descriptions on them "Designed for premium audio experience" and "bit-perfect recording for when it matters for your sound experience".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    BigKeithO, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:09am

    Re: and consumers dont mind paying a levy

    I mind... Why pay for something you aren't doing?

    Also, what illegal sales are you talking about?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    JEDIDIAH, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:12am

    Only in certain limited circumstances...

    > The USA has a blank media tax as well.

    That only applies to CDRs specifically labeled for music use.

    It's pretty trivial to avoid those.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    JEDIDIAH, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:17am

    Re: Who pirates onto CDs or MicroSD cards anyway?

    > You can't listen to a multi terabyte disk drive in the car or on the train.

    Sure you can. There are all sorts of ways to go about this since laptop hard drives are 2TB now.

    Tech advances.

    Although I still dig my aging 500M Archos.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    JEDIDIAH, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:19am

    Right idea, wrong perp.

    It depends on the product. It's usually the device that has some lame arbitrary limit.

    As far as the responsible parties go: I think "scrutiny" would be letting them off easy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:40am

    Re: and consumers dont mind paying a levy

    And how do you know they don't mind? I mind A LOT, and I don't pirate anything.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:45am

    Root of the Problem

    It would make more sense for CBC to tax the babies coming out of hospitals. But that's not saying much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 11:46am

    Re: Criminality Taxes

    Bank robbers use cars; hello bank robbery MVA fee.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Groove Tiger, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 12:53pm

    Re:

    A copyrightard would say something like: "well, the pirates brought it upon themselves and upon all innocent people by being so damn piratey!"

    Which is pretty much like a cop going on a murder spree "well, criminals clearly brought it upon innocent bystanders by doing crime and stuff, it's their fault that now I kill indiscriminately" (obviously, he'd be talking about jaywalking).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    dumbbutterfly, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 1:25pm

    Re:

    MicroSD cards come in 64GB and, although rare, 128GB.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 2:51pm

    Re: Re:

    Yep. I have a 64G card in my smartphone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Sep 5th, 2013 @ 6:53pm

    Re: Re:

    I think a better analogy would be if cops started mailing out 'you might be speeding'-tickets out to everyone in a city, because some people speed that they don't catch, so it's only 'fair' that everyone gets fined to make up the difference.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Varsil, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 8:34pm

    End of life cycle

    Ironically, CDs have gained a new usefulness for me, but partially because they're old. I buy the cheapest write-once-only CDs, and use them to burn copies of evidence or the like being provided to other lawyers, to ensure they get a read-only copy that will maintain integrity.

    At this point the only advantage of the technology is to be found in the flaws in the technology.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2013 @ 1:05am

    Re: How much?

    In Canada we generally just use DVDs now. They're substantially cheaper per unit than CDs. A spindle of 50 CDs is $15, and a spindle of 50 DVDs is $10.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Postulator (profile), Sep 6th, 2013 @ 4:42am

    Re:

    Micro SD cards have a limit of 32gb? I have a 64gb card in my phone (microSDXC can allegedly go up to 128gb).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    Postulator (profile), Sep 6th, 2013 @ 4:43am

    So this tax on CDs is actually greater than the price of a single blank CD? Wow, Canada's government must really hate its people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2013 @ 7:30am

    Re: How much?

    that the point of the static price point. That price was put in place when cd cost $1.5 each and you got a jewel case with each cd you could burn.

    Spindle and bulk pricing is the modern price and the static price point has never dropped to meet that modern price

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Bob Boberson, Sep 6th, 2013 @ 8:31am

    Re: How much?

    This levy was started years ago when blank CDs were a new thing and more expensive. It still didn't make sense back then.

    Fun fact: there is no levy on blank DVDs, so blank DVDs are notably cheaper than blank CDs here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    icon
    Sheogorath (profile), Sep 7th, 2013 @ 12:08am

    Re:

    Wow, so every CD-R sold in Canada is an "audio CD-R"!
    Same hypothesis in the UK, but my CD-Rs heartily disagree with it every time they happily store the open source freeware I put on them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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