Canadians hit by copyright levy on MP3 players

"That 20-gigabyte MP3 player going under the Christmas tree this season could soon cost 20 per cent more if the Copyright Board approves a proposed levy tomorrow on the sale of digital music devices. It could also mean new levies on recordable DVDs, removable flash memory and micro hard drives, as well as increased tariff rates on blank cassettes and recordable CDs, assuming a music-industry group called the Canadian Private Copying Collective, or CPCC, gets its way. Claude Majeau, secretary-general of the Copyright Board, confirmed yesterday that a decision on the controversial levy is to come out Friday morning.

Both the CPCC and a group of electronics manufacturers and retailers aggressively fighting the levy have been arguing their respective views since the Copyright Board began formal hearings on the matter in January. "It's the kind of decision that's likely to leave everybody unhappy," said Michael Geist, a professor of Internet law at the University of Ottawa and technology counsel for Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. "The retailers won't like it because they don't like the levy, period. Consumers won't like it because they won't be paying a fair price for the product. And copyright holders will probably feel they're not getting enough."

The CPCC already collects a levy on blank cassettes, recordable CDs and Sony minidiscs, but in May, 2002, the organization, which collects and redistributes the levy on behalf of the Canadian music industry, proposed that existing tariffs be substantially hiked and expanded to cover M3P players and other digital-memory products that carry music files. The original purpose of the levy was to compensate artists for the widespread activity of making personal copies of music that an individual already owns.

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