Blank Audio Media Levy

New Blank Audio Media Tariffs Proposed

The blank audio media tariffs proposed for 2014 were published in today’s Canada Gazette and are as follows :

  • 29 cents per recordable compact disc (CD-R, CD-RW, CD-R Audio, CD-RW Audio)
  • 50 cents per microSD memory card with 1 gigabyte of memory or less
  • 1 dollar per microSD memory card with more that 1 gigabyte of memory but less than 8 gigabyte of memory
  • 3 dollars per microSD memory card with more than 8 gigabytes of memory

Of course the question remains on whether microSD memory cards are “ordinarily used by individual consumers” as an “audio recording medium“, as defined by Part VIII, Section 79 of our Copyright Act.

Personally I have yet to use these cards or any other non-embedded memory card for anything but photography and video. And I also know several individuals who use these cards in their netbooks as a storage medium for their documents. So I have serious doubts in regards to the claim that these memory cards qualify as “blank audio recording media“, especially those of a higher class.

I use class 10 SDHC memory cards for my high definition photography and videos, which are considerably more expensive than class 2 SD memory cards. And the latter is quite adequate for the recording and playback of 254 kbps music files.

According to the SD Association, MicroSD memory cards were manufactured for the mobile phone market. And though most mobile phones now record video in HD, a higher class of memory card is unnecessary for the playback of music on those devices.

Furthermore, mobile phones that include these memory cards at the time of purchase may contain ring tones, software and/or other data, which disqualify these cards as “blank“.

I suspect many memory card manufacturers and retailers will file their objections to these proposed tariffs, as they did in the past. But I also believe Canadian consumers who use these memory cards for photography, video and data storage should also voice their opinions on the matter.

Written objections to these proposed tariffs will of course be accepted by the Copyright Board until April 11th, 2012 at the following address :

GILLES MCDOUGALL
Secretary General
56 Sparks Street, Suite 800
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0C9

Objections will be a matter of public record, so please be polite.

Thank you.

Retail Council Wants Levy Scrapped

According to The Wire, the Retail Council Of Canada has formally asked the Conservative government to scrap the blank audio media levy.

The group had previously stated in a March 12th, 2010 press release that they oppose any extention of the levy, stating that it would disadvantage Canadian retailers. And in this press release they stated they believed this “anti-competitive tax should be repealed altogether” :

Retailers contend the levy system is obsolete in an age of rapid technological change and does nothing to support and protect Canadian artists.”

I agree. And strangely enough the proponants of the levy also agree because they’re constantly trying to levy the next technology by stating the previous technology is no longer being used to copy music.

In less than five years the current levy was made obsolete, resulting in the following question on the savethelevy.ca web site : “It’s 2011 … who uses CD-Rs to copy music anymore?”

Well, cell phones and tablets are now being used to play back music files and cloud services will stream music to these devices shortly in Canada, making mp3 player obsolete soon. But of course like the Retail Council of Canada I believe the CPCC’s arguements are fundementally flawed :

Retail Council of Canada calls for changes to the Copyright Act to provide an explicit exception recognizing that private copying for archival or backup purposes and for format shifting purposes by individuals of legitimately acquired copies of works or sound recordings and movies is legal. This should include private copying for such purposes as platform shifting, backup purposes, or the avoidance of obsolescence.”

Remuneration is not required from consumers that have purchased music from online music retailers whose formats imply use on portable music devices in which electronic memory cards can be placed or embedded. And individuals that make personal copies for private use from recordings they’ve purchased fail to qualify as distributors because the recordings and resulting copies remain in their possession, regardless of the format shifting involved.

Private copying in no way infringes copyright, as defined by Part III, Section 27 of the Copyright Act. And a levy is not required because royalties have already been collected from the sale of legally purchased compact discs or music files, from which the private copies are made.

The alledged prominence of piracy on the internet in no way make devices like mp3 players conform to the term “blank audio media”, as defined by the Copyright Act. And the Copyright Board have already ruled that memory cards also did not qualify in a December 12th, 2003 decision.