Canadian Copyright Expert On Levy Proposals: Today’s Quickie Legislative Solutions Are Tomorrow’s Absurdities

This post originally appeared on Techdirt.

Howard Knopf, a well known Canadian copyright expert, recently took a look at some of the failed copyright levy proposals in Canada. The Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC) administers the tax levy on blank CDs, which now accounts for almost 90% of the price. In 2002, similar proposals to extend the levy to DVDs and digital audio players were shot down. It’s a good thing they were! Knopf notes that the $2.27 levy proposed in 2002 is now about 10 times the retail price of a blank DVD, and the $21/GB levy proposed for digital audio players would have left a 120 GB iPod (<$300 CAD) with a $2520 tax. You might think the CPCC would have decreased the levies over time, but the blank CD levy was just increased this past December (blank CDs cost more in Canada than blank DVDs). Even if the levies were lowered, it would be because they had already become unbearable. Imagine the bureaucracy and battles at the Copyright Board, and imagine the effect on Canadian consumers, tech companies in the meantime (what if the Blackberry was classified as a digital audio device?).

The point is that these quick solutions aren’t solutions at all. Setting up “you’re a criminal” taxes to collect money for companies that can’t figure out how to adjust their business models is bound to block innovative new technologies, and you can’t predict what technologies will drive new business models. As Knopf puts it, “all of this shows that today’s quickie proposed legislative solutions and oft inflated tariff proposals to deal with supposedly serious crises arising from copyright and new technology are potentially tomorrows’ absurdities or even nightmares.

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