Surprising: Charlie Angus Proposing iPod 'You Must Be A Criminal' Tax In Canada

from the why? dept

Every few months or so we hear about proposals in Canada to extend Canada’s blank media tax (they prefer “levy”) to MP3 players, such as iPods. The Canadian Private Copying Collective has tried to do this multiple times and had the courts strike it down multiple times. These levies make little sense. They massively increase the price of certain products (studies have seen 90% of the cost of blank CDs going to the levy) and, despite claims to the contrary, the money collected really doesn’t help many musicians. Hell, even the recording industry isn’t a huge fan of the idea, because it’s afraid such a levy will get people thinking that file sharing any music is now “legal.”

So, it’s a bit of a surprise to see that Canadian Member of Parliament, Charlie Angus, who’s generally considered one of the sharper folks on copyright issues, is now putting forth legislation for a Canadian “you must be a criminal” tax on MP3 players. The article suggests that it won’t get very far, and Angus doesn’t seem to be explaining why he’s putting this forward, but it is odd. The idea of such a tax is incredibly unpopular with Canadians, and you would think that Angus, of all people, would recognize that.

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Comments on “Surprising: Charlie Angus Proposing iPod 'You Must Be A Criminal' Tax In Canada”

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53 Comments
Ima Fish (profile) says:

These levies make little sense.

You gave plenty of reasons why these levies make little sense, but you missed the biggest reason. Even after paying these levies consumers still don’t have the right to infringe copyrights. They’re paying the copyright industries money without receiving anything in return. To me that’s criminal.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, in Canada there is a funny offshoot of the levy that does make it legal to infringe copyrights in very particular situations. You are allowed to download music/movies/etc as long as you store it only on CDs, for which you have paid the levy.

Of course, that’s amusing for a number of reasons. For one it means that you are always temporarily infringing copyright until you burn the files you’ve downloaded to CD and delete them from your hard drive.

Blank DVDs are actually cheaper than blank CDs in many stores here, because of the levy.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“there is a funny offshoot of the levy that does make it legal to infringe copyrights in very particular situations”

Can you show us the point in law that actually says that please?

Sure, not a problem. The Canadian Copyright act can be found here Section VIII covers the allowable limits for private copying.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

And to save you the painfully slow Department of Justice website:


80. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the act of reproducing all or any substantial part of
(a) a musical work embodied in a sound recording,
(b) a performer’s performance of a musical work embodied in a sound recording, or
(c) a sound recording in which a musical work, or a performer’s performance of a musical work, is embodied
onto an audio recording medium for the private use of the person who makes the copy does not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the musical work, the performer’s performance or the sound recording.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Here’s a letter to the editor from Richard Pfohl, General Counsel, Canadian Recording Industry Association. He writes,

Downloading pirated music is not legal in Canada… In fact, the Federal Court of Appeal has subsequently twice ruled that the private copying regime doesn’t apply to downloads made to hard drives.

Notice what he’s saying. First, the general statement that downloading music is illegal in Canada. Then he narrowly says that music downloaded to “hard drives” is illegal. He never addresses the possibility of downloading music directly to a levied disc.

Considering the price of blank levied CDs and the technology involved, I don’t think it’d be possible (economically or technologically) to directly download a song to a levied disc. It would certainly be cached on the hard drive or RAM, at least temporarily.

So I’m going to stand by my statement. In any meaningful sense, Canadians are paying the levy without receiving any benefit in return.

Rikuo (profile) says:

What is it with these people?

Sorry for the blank first comment, just hit enter in the wrong place 🙁
It seems lately, that governments around the world are completely screwed up on how the marketplace works. If consumers want your product, they buy it. If they don’t want it, you don’t sell anything.
Now, your product doesn’t have to advertise, doesn’t have to sell, and you can just say “Give me money based on the sales of completely unrelated items”. Should I record a piece of music this minute, and say I’m due a piece of this tax? After all, it doesn’t matter that I’m not a musician, know nothing about music, am not going to advertise or promote it in any way, and am not actually going to expect sales of any kind.
The U.K. has just published a study that says “Tax Google to prop newspapers”. These kinds of thinking will just say to enterprising folk, screw up and we’ll bail you out with money from actual successful businesses.

DJ (profile) says:

Re: What is it with these people?

I like how you conveniently dance around an issue, but never actually address it.
So, even though it’s off-topic, I will:
The phrase “too big to fail” has no place in capitalism. Period. If a company fails in a capitalist society, another company rises to fill that void and all is well.
The only society where that phrase applies is a communist society…hmmmm….

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: What is it with these people?

“The only society where that phrase applies is a communist society”

Excuse me? How does the state owning the means of production have anything to do with the idea that a business is too big to fail?

In a purely capitalist society, you’re right that there’s no such thing as “too big to fail.” At least, once the capitalism has degenerated to monopoly (which purely capitalist systems inevitably do.)

Fortunately, we do not live in a purely capitalistic society and we never will. (I say “fortunately” for a number of reasons, but topping the list is that pure capitalism is inhuman.) Pure capitalism degenerates and as such is unsustainable. Please note that this isn’t so much because of capitalism itself (although the exact way that it degenerates is flavored by it), but rather because of the nature of pure “isms” — they cannot exist, and every time they are tried, this fact is rediscovered. They all degenerate.

The real strength of the American system is that we are a mongrel: we’re attempting to take the best features of the various “isms,” including capitalism, communism, socialism, and whatever else, and meld them together into something that provides the greatest benefit and least weakness for the people.

Just as with dogs, purebreeds tend to be sickly, mongrels tend to thrive.

DJ (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: What is it with these people?

“best features of the various “isms,” including capitalism, communism, socialism, and whatever else”

Best features of communism and socialism??!!! are you freaking nuts? There’s no such thing!! Or have you not been taught about Stalin and Mao, and the absolutely appalling acts they did in the name of “social justice”; the acts that, individually, make Hitler look like an elementary school bully.

Wake up!

ehhh says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What is it with these people?

You, like so many others are confusing dictatorships with socialist society. Here’s how you guys like to spin it,

socialist IS a communist and STALIN was a communist and he killed millions of people, so YOU want to kill MILLIONS OF PEOPLE!!!

It’s a trite argument, put forth by small minds. Socialism is intertwined into every civilization, including ours. Why has no one mentioned Israel, Sweden, Canada when they want to conjure up a boggy-man … probably because it’s ineffective.

— Wake up!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What is it with these people?

There’s no such thing whatsoever as a good feature of socialism? I think you being willfully blind. There’s quite a few good things about it – and we’ve incorporated many of those things in America from the very beginning.

I’m not talking about Stalin and Mao, they were evil murderers. But any system, even capitalism, can and has been used as the basis for an evil murderer to to his murdering. These are not inherent features of the economic systems themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: What is it with these people?

At least, once the capitalism has degenerated to monopoly (which purely capitalist systems inevitably do.)

While I see how this can be the case in a largely mercantilist-style capitalist system (which is what the Unites States currently has), I don’t see how this is the case for pure capitalism.

Can you back up this assertion with some logic or evidence?

Ryan says:

Re: Re: Re: What is it with these people?

If by capitalism “degenerating” you mean “tends to incrementally become less capitalistic as the government becomes steadily more intrusive”, then you may have a point. However, monopolies are difficult to produce in a free market and extremely insecure once achieved.

In a state of widespread competition and limited intrusion, the only way incumbent monopolies can continue to exist is by providing a better product at lower prices than anybody else. This is obviously the ideal for any economic system – one that incentivizes the greatest innovation for the least amount of cost. Yet, large companies are less flexible and thus less able to adapt to changes in the marketplace or to rapidly restructure for innovation. Thus, many upstarts will take advantage of this, similar in manner to how guerilla warfare allows much smaller forces to compete against larger and/or more advanced ones.

Extended monopolistic states are almost always the result of government interference, because its leaders will often move to protect the constituents best able to contribute money and influence. I also have no idea where you get the idea of pure capitalism “degenerating” or being “inhuman”. Beyond that, your criticism seems to stem from the belief that a purely free market cannot happen; however, this is completely insufficient reason for why we shouldn’t strive for it, or why a freer market, even if not perfect, is not an improvement…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What is it with these people?

“In a state of widespread competition and limited intrusion, the only way incumbent monopolies can continue to exist is by providing a better product at lower prices than anybody else.”

Except that’s demonstrably untrue.

Even the father of capitalist theory, Adam Smith, pointed out this problem with capitalism in the very work that is the foundation of our system of capitalism.

Unregulated capitalism leas inevitably to monopoly or plutocracy. One entity wins, and in winning becomes better able to squeeze out other players, until competition is effectively impossible.

Capitalism requires regulation to keep it alive.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What is it with these people?

“Beyond that, your criticism seems to stem from the belief that a purely free market cannot happen; however, this is completely insufficient reason for why we shouldn’t strive for it, or why a freer market, even if not perfect, is not an improvement…”

We agree on this point — I very much love a free market. Where we disagree is how best to achieve that. I do not think that a free market can exist without some level of regulation.

Rich says:

Why Isn't It Legal

I’m not Canadian, but I always wondered why filesharing isn’t legal there. I mean, they are already charge people a levy for the media. If you bought the media and paid the levy, shouldn’t you then be allowed to download music? Isn’t that what they say you are already doing if you buy the media? If not, then what are you paying for?

Rich says:

Why Isn't It Legal

@Richard Corsale

You’re being pedant. When I say “I always wondered why filesharing isn’t legal”, of course, I am talking about when it involved infringement. I’m not implying that ALL downloading of files (music, or otherwise), be it via FTP, HTTP, P2P, or whatever, is illegal. You making that inference is your own problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

canadians dont like the tax but they dont seem to understand that the tax is part of the reason file sharing is widely permitted. remove the taxes on blank discs and blank recording material and then you also have to police file sharing. there is no free lunch no matter how often someone tries to tell you there is.

DJ (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“there is no free lunch”

Absolutely true, but that doesn’t mean that “you also have to police file sharing”. One doesn’t follow the other.

Just because you can’t (without charity) get a service for free, doesn’t mean that the government MUST control that service. To me, that’s effectively paying for that service twice: once monetarily, and again in the way of policing/control.

kellythedog (profile) says:

File Sahring in Kanada and copying

as per Mr. Geist who I’ll take his opinion as having a high degree of being correct.
“The reality is Canadian law features a private copying exemption that includes a levy on blank media. The Federal Court and the Copyright Board of Canada have intimated the levy, which has generated hundreds of millions of dollars, could apply to personal, non-commercial downloading of sound recordings onto certain blank media. The law therefore opens the door to some legalized music downloading, but it does not cover other content (movies or software) or the uploading of any content.”
http://www.thestar.com/sciencetech/article/647038

Note it only is applied to pure sound recordings, it cannot be applied to include movies that have sound tracks.
So as I see it, its legal to download the content if its a music, but not legal to upload it for others.

Anonymous Coward says:

They can charge the levy and still assert that sharing copyrighted materials is illegal because the levy only covers the downloading of the materials onto the disc you purchased. Nowhere do they mention uploading. Therefore the uploading is still illegal.

You can download all you want as long as you download stuff that wasn’t uploaded.

NAMELESS.ONE says:

Ben Franklin was NOT Canadian

ha
how is your ACTA coming USA
anyone one in that so called democratic republic seen it except hollywood yet

and in the CRIA’s own words they have a “[ending” list where they will one day pay artists they go and sell albums for.
YEA thats who is managing the copyright levy

I WANT THAT put into regular peoples hands so the artists i pay this levy on at least get paid

Blaise Alleyne (profile) says:

Not too surprising

Unfortunately, I’m not too surprised. Charlie Angus is great when it comes to combating draconian legislation that serves to prop up outdated business models, or that mentions VCRs, etc., but his own suggestions are very much on the collective licensing side of things — whether that means paying royalties at the ISP level or through more levies. He’s more a supporter of new collection methods than new business models. I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed that he’d actually act on this without realizing what a bad idea it is…

Laurel L. Russwurm (profile) says:

tax vs. levy

Although it may feel the same to us beleaguered consumers, and although government mandated, in Canada a “levy” is not the same as a “tax”.

This is not just semantics:

“a “tax” needs to be accountable to the people paying it, and the amount is set by elected officials. In the case of these levies [they] are realistically only accountable to the collective societies and the amount is set by unelected commissioners on the copyright board.”

— Russell McOrmond, Putting Mr. Angus’ private members Copyright bill in context: locks, lawsuits, levies and licensing

A tax has at least some oversight.

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