Is a Copyright Tax on Music Downloads Imminent?

Dennis Faas's picture

If copyright boards in the United States are to ever tax our downloaded music files, we'll have one Big White scapegoat. If and when that day comes, you can BLAME CANADA.

I don't mean to be a jerk, but the Copyright Board of Canada has indeed set the precedent for similar American bodies to follow. Given the immense popularity of legal downloading sites like iTunes and Napster, there surely is good reason for boards to impose an excise.

So, what are the Canadians charging?

The tariffs will be charged to companies that legally distribute music over the web. For Canucks, this will mean the standard iTunes file at 99 cents will now cost $1.02. Albums are a bit like buying in bulk, as each song within one will only add 1.5 cents per track.

Why bother?

The Copyright Board of Canada sees it as a measure to compensate artists for the reproduction of their music, not unlike similar measures in the country which added 21 cents to the price of every blank CD sold. Given the difficulty of emerging as a breakout North American hit for most Canadian artists (though there are many exceptions), musicians will take all the help they can get.

You could also consider it simply another step forward from the CRTC initiative, or Canadian Radio-Television Commission, which mandated that radio and television stations must broadcast a certain percentage of legitimately Canadian-crafted material. By the 1990s, this percentage had grown to 35%. (Source:

Regardless, given the Record Industry Association of America's hard-line stance on copyright it wouldn't be a stretch if this were to arrive in much warmer climates south of the border. According to one legal music download company representative, "because this market is a fledgling one, we have a rampant piracy problem and we are trying to breathe life into a new industry here". (Source:

Distribution to artists will be done through the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

Up next may be a similar decision on the use of Internet radio.

Sigh, nothing like death and taxes.

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