Friday, May 13, 2011

"Taxing" Canadians' Patience & Pocketbooks

The CPCC collects "levies" on blank CDs and has desperately tried but failed twice in the Courts and recently with the Government and the Bill C-32 Committee to get an "iPod" tax. It has a new surprise that will create yet more enemies. It has now resurrected its efforts for a “levy” - or a “tax” as Ministers call it - on memory cards, such as Compact Flash - i.e.:

(b) 50¢ for each electronic memory card with 1 gigabyte of
memory or less, $1.00 for each electronic memory card with
more than one gigabyte of memory but less than 8 gigabytes of
memory, and $3.00 for each electronic memory card with
8 gigabytes of memory or more.

It’s easy to buy  8 GB cards for about $13 - so this is about a 23% “tax”.

These ubiquitous cards are commonly used in Blackberries, cameras and other devices that have nothing to do with music. Does anyone seriously think that they are “ordinarily” used for music?

The CPCC tried this on for size in 2003-2004 in the context of several other items but the Board wisely ruled then that there was insufficient evidence that “electronic memory cards” were ordinarily used to copy music.

With widespread use now of solid state or hard drive embedded memory in iPod and similar devices, and the clearly predominant use of electronic memory cards for Blackberries, cameras, and other devices, the CPCC case for a “tax” on memory cards seems even weaker now than it was then.

By the way, at the time in 2003,  the CPCC wanted “ 0.8¢ for each megabyte of memory in each removable electronic memory card, each removable flash memory storage medium of any type, or each removable micro-hard drive”.  On today’s typical 16 GB card that sells for about $30 or less, that would be a “tax” of $128 - or about 400% - which shows the CPCC’s foresight and the application of Moore’s Law.

Unfortunately, the way the Copyright Board works, it seems inevitable that one or more parties are going to have to spend a lot of money to convince the Board not to impose this levy - or “tax” as most will call it. The CPCC will spend a lot of money - which it  has from undistributed levies - to line up its usual expensive experts to provide evidence of its entitlement to this “tax”. One or more parties will have to provide evidence and experts at great expense to refute this - even though it seems so obviously wrong. But that’s the way the Copyright Board mechanism works in this and other instances where a collective is entitled to file a proposed tariff.

This is a perfect example of why the next copyright bill should simply put the “levy” or “tax” mechanism out of its misery. The government should also deal with the provisions in the Act that give collectives such an upper hand in Copyright Board proceedings by allowing them to force expensive hearings using other peoples’ money that include invasive, deterring and frequently unnecessary interrogatories. Many potential objectors are not in the “copyright” business and can’t rationally spend what it takes to participate in these hearings in the way that the Board has come to demand, i.e. massive expenditures on surveys, experts, etc. The result is often more examples of substantial costs being imposed and passed along to Canadian business, consumers, students, etc. where such costs simply don’t exist in the USA and the other countries with which Canada needs to compete.


1 comment:

  1. I didn't like having to pay a tax, or "levy", on the CDs I bought years ago to store photos and backup my HD, but I don't see any difference between that bit of theft and this one. In fact, although I resent the presumption that the tax, or "levy", is a fee for some service that I have no intention of using, I can live with the idea of a tax on media being used to support creative activities if that is the collective will of the nation. Just don't call it a "levy" and interpret it as a fee for service unless (a)it entitles me to fill it with unlimited personal use copies of any works that I do buy and (b)there is some provision for levy-free media which are precluded from being used for copyright material (like the coloured tax-free fuel that is available in some places for farmers)