The music industry is definitely changing, and (as usual) change is producing conflict. In this case, the conflict is between the music industry, which has for a hundred years sold an information product on physical media and is struggling to find its relevance in a virtual environment, and those who live in that virtual environment and consider the traditional music industry as irrelevant as their physical media.
This debate is complex and will take years to resolve. I have been proud of the balance that Canada has struck between providers' and users' rights in many copyright matters (especially when compared with the DMCA situation south of the border), but am very concerned that the recently-announced copyright reform initiatives swing the balance of power to the providers' side.
But putting the debate aside, I find it bizarre and intensely aggravating that the Canadian music industry continues to imply that copying music for your own use is illegal or immoral.
The Canadian copyright act was amended in 1998-99 to explicitly permit the private copying of music. It's not that the law is silent on the issue -- the law specifically says that it is permitted! According to several reports, this was done with the support of the music industry.
Of course, there are some things which may be legal but are immoral. Does the private copying of music fall into this category?
In a word: No! -- the music industry is compensated for their 'opportunity costs' through a levy which is collected on the sale of blank media.
In an e-mail exchange with EMI Canada, they told me that (the way they see it) the levy does not come close to compensating them for the loss in sales.
If that is the case, then the solution is to have the levy rate increased. Which might be a hard sell, because the levy is collected on every piece of blank media sold regardless of its ultimate use -- a lot of people are paying the music industry to back up their data and distribute their software on CD-Rs. It's also hard to determine the actual opportunity cost to the music industry, since there seem to be as many studies saying that private copying increases sales as there are studies saying the opposite.
The alternative would be to drop the levy and the Private Copying provisions of the Act. That would also help "the little guys" -- new musicians and bands -- because many of them are making copies of their own music and are paying the levy to the established music industry when they do so.
The current levy on CD-Rs is $0.21 per disc. I've bought hundreds of disks (for about $0.30 each) to distribute my own software to clients, to distribute Open Source software, and to back up data, and I've paid the music industry for the privilege every time. I'd much rather have those discs cost $0.09 each without the levy, but since I'm paying the music industry anyways, I finally decided that I may as well get some benefit ... so when I hear a disc I like, I don't hesitate to copy it.
Regardless of where you stand in this debate, please do us all a favor: help stop the spread of the outright lie that copying music for your own use in Canada is illegal or immoral.
Well said. I bet most people don't know about the levy on blank CDs. It does seem grossly unfair that the music industry gets paid every time someone buys a blank CD, and then moans and groans when someone uses that CD to copy music! Isn't that why there's a levy on blank CDs in the first place?
About Chris Tyler
I am a Christian, college professor, computer programmer, system administrator, author, and consultant. I am also an Industrial Research Chair with a focus on Linux on 64-bit ARM enterprise systems.