In the News

Canada Wants an Internet Levy — Fight Back!

Cory writes in BoingBoing about a proposed internet levy for Canadians.

The money will go to copyright holders, but paying the levy confers no

additional rights to you. Where I come from, that’s called a rip-off.

Here’s the article (quoted in its entirety, thanks to BoingBoing’s Creative Commons Licence):

Canada’s efforts to update its copyright laws for the Internet continue apace — you may remember three separate posts

on this last week. Heritage Canada is now recommending an Internet

“levy” that will go to a collecting society, on a grounds that

everything on the Internet is copyrighted by someone, and the

collecting society will gather money for them in exchange for your use

of their material.

The problem here isn’t really the levy — blanket license fees,

including levies, are actually not a bad way of solving some copyright

problems — but what you get in exchange for it. The levy here would

cover all Internet users, including institutions that have the right to

re-use work without permission or payment (like schools and libraries),

and it won’t confer any substantial rights upon you.

That means that even if you pay the levy for the use of copyrighted

works on the Internet, you won’t get the right to share music, or

download movies, or use screenshots in your PowerPoint presentation.

When a radio station pays a blanket license fee, it gets the right to

play all the music ever recorded. When you pay your levy, you’ll get

virtually no rights at all — except the right to get your ass sued off

if someone decides that you’re being naughty.

The standing committee on Canadian Heritage, which presented

this recommendation along with several other potentially disastrous

ideas, heard lots of learned, substantive testimony on why this is bad

for Canada. It roundly ignored it all. The report that Heritage

delivered is a one-sided smear against the Internet and a naked grab

for a few giant copyright holders at the expense of new entrants to the

market and the general public. The people responsible for this should

be removed from their duties — it’s inexcusable.

If Canada is going to extract a levy from Canadians, then

Canadians should get soemthing in return: unlimited access to

noncommercial, educational, and archival use of copyrighted works on

the Internet. A levy without something in return is just an exercise in

picking your pocket — and you shouldn’t stand for it. Sign the petition today.

The best answer to copyright reform has always been to maintain

balance, the lawyers say. Society wants to maintain creative

incentives, so laws are passed to protect creators; but society must

also have access to those works to share in their knowledge.

“The danger of WIPO is that it threatens that balance,” Mr. Geist said, “and replaces social rights with absolute rights.”

There’s also the potential for the recommendations to have a direct economic impact.

“The committee ignored solid evidence that the levy on blank CDs

[meant to compensate artists for pirated content] would double as a

result of the national treatment requirements of the WIPO treaties,”

Mr. Knopf said. “This could quickly cost Canadians more than

$100-million annually.

“We could end up with the worst of all dystopian worlds,” he

added. “You could pay the levy on a CD and get sued anyway” over the

disc’s content.

The article also links to a Globe and Mail piece titled Ottawa’s copyright plans wrongheaded, experts say.

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