Music Technology

Another Cash Grab?

The Copyright Act is being reviewed by the Canadian Government and some Canadians are of course concerned that this will include an extension of private copying levies to cell phones and the possibility of websites being blocked for minor copyright violations.

Unfortunately the government has been pretty quiet about this since their December 17th, 2017 press release and I didn’t want to speculate. But a line in the sand needs to be drawn, regardless of what is and isn’t being considered in the closed door meetings they might be having with foreign lobbyists.

I don’t think cell phones should be subject to the private copying levy because streaming is the preferred method of obtaining music on this device according to Music Canada, some customers listening to radio on these devices. And the possibility of having my site blocked because I accidentally linked a site that decided to offer pirated music is just absurd but these kind of proposals have been made in other countries.

This isn’t about giving artists more of their dues but giving labels more money. And streaming is where the improvements are needed when it comes to royalties for artists, so I see no point in levying cell phone storage.

The Copyright Board proposed levying hard drives and microSD memory cards in 2014 but that propose was rejected because a “recording audio medium” is defined by Part VIII, Section 79 of the Copyright Act as “a recording medium, regardless of its material form, onto which a sound recording may be reproduced and that is of a kind ordinarily used by individual consumers for that purpose”.

A cell phone’s primary function is communication, not the receipt, storage and playback of music. And this device is also used to take and view photographs and videos.

It makes no sense to levy this device for royalties for music and nothing else. And this slippery slope is not advantageous for consumers, who would object to paying levies for storing photographs, video and games on their new smartphone, or tablet.

I don’t like being gouged on data fees so I don’t listen to music, watch videos or play video games on mine now. And I seriously doubt i’d enjoy paying more for a newer model, for services I wouldn’t use.

Do we really want to burden the cell phone industry with this? And when it comes to blocking, this can be bypassed with Virtual Private Network services, so is the government going to go after those as well in the name of copyright?

VPNs are used by people who travel and use public wi-fi, for security reasons. Do we really want to loose access to this service over piracy? When a sharp decline in music piracy was observed in 2017 by Music Canada?

A form has been made available by Open Media to provide comments to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on these issues.

Please submit this form and share this link and your opinions on social media before September 17th, 2018. Thank you.

Save on Music, Books and DVDs at Indigo.ca

Update – Response on Netflix/Internet Tax

From my local Member of Parliament, Karen McCrimmon (Dated June 13th, 2018) :

“Hello Rob,

Thank you for taking the time to share your ideas with me.

Our government understands the importance of supporting our artists and creators. We also know that the way Canadians access content is changing. That’s why we have made historic investments of $3.2 billion, to support our artists and creators. It’s also why we will be modernizing our laws and programs to better support our artists in the digital era.

Netflix’s investment is a part of the transition. It secures 5 years of investments for our creators, as we modernize our laws and programs.

We, as a government have decided not to introduce a Netflix tax because we don’t want to raises taxes on the middle class, we want to lower them. We will always look at ways to strike the balance between a fair tax system and the investments we need in our culture, but in doing so, we’re not going to be raising taxes on the middle class through an internet broadband tax.

I will share your ideas with my fellow colleagues, including the Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau.

Thank your again for your engagement as a constituent.

Kind regards,

Karen”

I had suggested that if taxes on streaming services are absolutely necessary that they consider forwarding a portion of the federal taxes collected from these services to Canadian Content initiatives, instead of introducing an independent levy for that purpose.

As i’ve mentioned in a previous entry, these services will be taxed on New Years Day in Quebec and the Canadian Radio & Telecommunication Commission had made a proposal of their on in regards to levy to fund Canadian Content.

The publics views have been made clear by a February 2017 poll conducted by Innovative Research Group earlier in 2017. But I had thought to send my opinion and suggestions to my local MP and Heritage Minister Melanie Joly in response to the CRTC’s recent proposal.

If you wish to contact your local Member of Parliament on this issue, you can do so via the MP database by clicking here.

I will of course update this blog if the situation changes.

Thank you.

New Taxes On Streaming?

On New Years Day 2019, residents of Quebec will begin paying a tax on streaming services. And unfortunately the Canadian Radio & Telecommunication Commission is considering a “levy” to fund Canadian programming and a House of Commons committee is asking for sales taxes to be collected on these services.

This would of course raise the price of these services for the consumer, significantly. And these had been opposed by Canadians according to a Open Media poll conducted in early 2017 by the Innovative Research Group.

According to this poll, 70% of the respondents opposed a new tax on internet and mobile phone bills, 51% strongly. And in regards to the implementation of sales taxes on foreign streaming services, 47% of the respondents supported it provided the funds would be used on Canadian content.

CRTC chairman Ian Scott claimed the “levy” itself “would cost less than 50 cents on an average broadband bill of $47” durring a May 31st, 2018 Financial Times interview so they could easily just divert some of the sales taxes to Canadian Content instead. But there has yet to be a response in regards to these “contributions” from Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had both claimed there would be no internet taxes.

Please contact your local Member of Parliament on this issue. I will be contacting mine as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Apple Ending Music Downloads?

Since mid-March there have been rumours that Apple may be ending music downloads on March 31st, 2019 to promote their Music Streaming services. But contradictory statements have been issued so I don’t personally believe Apple would shut down such a lucrative service.

Yes, the streaming service has become quite popular with iPhone users and streaming accounted for 65% of the music sales in 2017 according to the Recording Industry Association of America. But digital downloads still accounted for 15% of these sales last year, regardless of their 25% reduction in sales from the previous year and iTunes retains a good percentage of these sales.

I support artists by buying music and music video downloads from iTunes, Google Play and CD Baby because artists generally get more royalties from these download services than their streaming counterpart, although it should be noted that SOCAN did confirm a hike in streaming royalties in their 2016 annual report.

I don’t own an iPhone and I am not interested in owning one, preferring to listen to my music on an older Sony digital music player instead of draining my Sony Xperia smartphone’s battery to listen to music. And iTunes has been my primary source of music since Puretracks closed, on both the Windows and Apple operating systems, so i’m hoping they will continue the service because I am not that interested in streaming services.

Although I have installed Spotify and several other streaming services on my desktop and tablets, the vast majority of the music I listen to was copied off compact discs and I don’t want to need an internet connection to play my music.

I’m not willing to pay extra to listen to music I already paid for and I occasionally visit areas with little to no internet access so paid streaming is not the best option for me.

I guess we’ll see what they’re planning my March 31st, 2019 and I will definitely contact them with my concerns if they ever choose to bow out of music downloads.

Great News From RIAA

The Recording Industry Association of America has compiled its data for 2017 and sales are up by 16.5%, driven by the heightened sale of vinyl records, music downloads and streaming service subscriptions.

The actual report can be found here (in PDF) and additional commentary on this growth in sales can be found on Medium.

Censorship Proposed

As you may or may not know, several companies have formed a lobby group called FairPlay Canada in order to block certain sites deemed to contain pirated material.

This group proposes the creation of a non-profit entity called the Independent Piracy Review Agency to administer this blocking “under the supervision of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to help prevent international piracy sites and organizations from reaching and harming Canada’s creative economy”, as stipulated in a January 29th, 2018 application to the CRTC (PDF). But numerous issues in regards to this were brought up by Openmedia, including issues related to censorship and Net Neutrality. And one has to wonder who will be paying for this initiative.

Personally I have concerns about any entity being tasked with blocking sites because of what happened in July 2005, when Telus decided to block a pro-union website and blocked over 760 sites that just happened to share this pro-union website’s server “by accident”.

A preliminary injunction was required to force Telus to stop blocking these sites and although the proposal attempts to ease these concerns by saying the “system would have extensive checks and balances”, one has to wonder why members of this “trustworthy” group would refuse to air advertisements on this issue from Openmedia and use other tactics like that discovered by blogger Michael Geist.

Do we really want these people to block legal content that happens to be on servers where pirated recordings can be found? Can we be guarantied prompt responses to sites that were unduly blocked? And how exactly would they address the use of Virtual Private Networks, that can used to bypass blocking? Will they claim those services facilitate piracy, blocking them with no real consideration to their legitimate use?

In 2016 legal music streaming profits in Canada went up a whopping 144.9% and legal music downloads remain one of the primary sources of music for Canadians according to Music Canada. And the Nielsen Music 360 survey and BuzzAngle Music confirmed more Canadians are using these legal services in 2017 so people are clearly being lured away from the illegal services this proposal attempts to address.

The use of smartphones to stream music grew in this country according to a September 2017 report issued by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (PDF) ; From 40% in 2016 to 52% in 2017. And Netflix and other streaming services have successfully convinced many would be pirates to use their services instead so why would we need to open this pandora’s box?

Blocking sites will in no way cause recording artists to gain more royalties from the legal streaming services and address what Music Canada calls “The Value Gap“. And the premise of forcing people to attend hearings to keep their sites available to the public is absurd.

Most CRTC hearings are held in Gatineau, Quebec yet the proposal does not discuss where these other hearings might happen or if legal recourses would be made available to those who were forced to incur costs to defend themselves from false accusations. I guess we’re all supposed to subscribe to false dilemmas and presume everything will work out fine.

If you would like to file an intervention with the CRTC, you can do so by clicking here by 8pm Eastern, March 29th, 2018.