On March 9th, 2002
the proposed levies on blank
audio recording media for
2003-2004 were published in The
Canada Gazette. These levies are
significantly higher for this
period and the Canadian
Private Copying Collective have proposed
an expansion of these levies from
blank audio recording media to
Mp3 players, memory cards (including
flash cards), and DVD-R/DVD-RW.
The new proposed rates are as follows:
private copying was
legalized in an amendment to the
copyright act in 1997, these
levies are collected by the
Canadian Private Copying
Collective from manufacturers and
importers of the above mentioned
media, who sell this media within
Canada. The associated costs are
included in the price of the media
by the manufacturer or importer,
regardless of the media's use (as audio
media or not).
What is private
copying to the consumer ?
In the past, most
people simply made copies to
prevent from changing tapes or
records on their players to
listen to a few songs on each
tape or record, usually outside
of their home environment (in
personal players, their car,
etc.). Most did not rent, sell,
trade or give these recordings
away so I doubt most people would
consider this illegal and
prosecution of such an individual
would have resulted in negative
publicity for the artist, label
and rights agency involved in the
case. The consumer of the copied
material was the same person who
purchased the original material
and the public would not have
found it reasonable to demand
individuals purchase multiple
copies, especially when multiple
formats have come and gone
resulting in the consumer already
purchasing multiple copies of the
Today technology has
enabled the consumer to compile
more of his/her favorite material
to smaller devices and again,
he/she does this for convenience.
The situation has not really
changed except now the industry
is claiming that private copying
was piracy prior to the passing
of the 1997 amendment and instead
of investing in technology, in
digital distribution, they've
decided to sit back and
"levy" new technologies.
Guilt by Association
Piracy in understandably a
problem and most consumers would accept a
reasonable compensation scheme but
I do not believe the proposed rates are
justified. I believe they simply create
a situation in which consumers are
considered pirates simply
because they purchase material that
can be used as
audio media, by default.
rates are not based on piracy but based on
the estimated use of media as audio media.
And "Private Copying" has enabled the
Canadian Private Copying Collective
to include consumers who make legal
copies in their estimations resulting
in the astronomical rates they have
and will continuously propose.
Piracy will not be removed by
criminalizing the consumer. Such an unacceptable
precedent will result in the additional
levying of recording media by the software
and film industries.
Computer Industry Concerned
The new proposed
levies have also resulted in
concern in the computer industry.
In a Reuters article published in
Citizen on March 16th,
2001, Compaq Canada spokesman Ron
Ireland was quoted to say that
the new proposed levies
"could add significant costs
to the end-user" and that
the company is "watching it
being the proposed inclusion of
devices with internal hard drives
"that are intended for use
primarily to record and play
music". The proposal states
the devices with the internal
hard drives included in the
proposal are "similar"
to mp3 players but the amount of
similarity is not defined. And
individuals who use CD-R, CD-RW,
DVD-R, DVD-RW and removable
memory/flash cards for data other
than audio recordings will still
pay more as the manufacturers
pass their levy associated costs
down to them.
What can be done ?
A date for the hearing on the proposed 2003-2004
tarrifs has been set at the May 23rd, 2002 pre-hearing (html/pdf).
The board will be accepting letters of comment
until October 22nd, 2002, the day the hearings begin.
You may send your polite letters of comment
to the Copyright Board by email
or by fax at (613) 952-8630. Please include your name, address,
phone/fax numbers and email address.
petition against the levy can also be found here but please
file a letter of comment as well.
UPDATE - On December 12th, 2003, the Copyright Board has released its
DVD-R, DVD-RW, smart/flash media and removable micro hard drives
will not be subject to the blank media
levy in 2003-2004 because the CPCC had failed to "clearly demonstrate that these recording media
are ordinarily used by individuals for the purpose of copying music". This will likely be reviewed
in a few years.
MP3 players with non-removable hard drives or media are now
subject to the blank audio media levy - $2 for players that have up to 1 gigabyte of storage,
$15 for players that have up to 10 gigabytes of storage and $25 on all players exceeding 10
gigabytes of storage.
Audio cassetes tapes, CD-R/CD-RW, CD-R/CD-RW Audio and minidisc
will be subject to their previous levy rates until the end of 2004. The Copyright Board has denied
the CPCC's request to increase the rates, stating in their official press release that the requested
20% increase "was not justified at this time, and that fairness and equity dictated that the status
quo for the existing levies be maintained".
In this decision, the Copyright Board has also concluded that :
- the CPCC is not authorised to create a "zero-rating" exemption
program, and they will therefore be required to cancel their existing exemption programs.
- the levy itself may be reviewed as copy protection and online music purchases with digital rights management become
UPDATE - On December 14th, 2004, the Federal Court Of Appeal has ruled the following :
- The levy is not a "tax" as defined by law (Application A-11-04, page 8)
- The Canadian Private Copying Collective are authorised to operate a Zero-Ratings
program, this ruling overturning the December 12th, 2003 decision by the Copyright Board
(Application A-9-04, page 25)
- Mp3 Players cannot be levied because they are not media but devices that contain
media, this ruling overturning the December 12th, 2003 decision by the Copyright Board (Application A-10-04, page 43)
The CPCC is currently considering an appeal of the later with the Supreme Court Of Canada, according to their
December 17th, 2004 Press Release (PDF). Dec 14th, 2004 Federal Court Of Appeal ruling (PDF).
UPDATE - On July 28th, 2005, the Supreme Court Of Canada dismissed the Canadian Private Copying Collective's appeal of
the December 14, 2004 Federal Court Of Appeals rulling (CPCC - Official Press Release - PDF)
UPDATE - On January 10th, 2008, the Feberal Court of Appeals dismissed the Copyright Board's certification of levies on iPods and Mp3 players, in respect
to their previous decisions (Decision Text)
To Additional Information
CD-R Tax FAQ
Parliament Records -
The Copyright Board
2003/2004 Levy Press Release
2003/2004 Levy Decision (PDF)
American Version (1003/1004)
The Canadian Private
The Canadian Recording
The Canadian Coalition for
Fair Digital Access
news article on blank audio levy
news article on tech industry's response