Private Copying Levies and the Digital Music Market

Image of a DAT tape
Dead Media Society: DAT Tape, by Theo Curmudgeon,

Although copyright markets are far from perfect, the appropriate response is to simplify market exchanges rather than undermine them through an expanded private copying levy scheme. That’s my argument in a peer-reviewed articled, “The Role of Levies in Canada’s Digital Music Market,” published in the Canadian Journal of Law and Technology.

This article offers insight into the role of levies in Canada‚Äôs digital music market place in a time of uncertainty in copyright law and expanding technology. It considers whether private copying levies on products that allow for copying by individuals (ie. blank CDs, recording devices, flash cards, etc.) and tariffs on third party media hosts (ie. internet service providers) are a desirable alternative to the system of granting exclusive proprietary rights.

The concept of substituting third party liabilities for free-market transactions suffers from numerous flaws. My article canvasses possible philosophical objections, constitutional constraints, international treaty issues, cross-subsidization concerns and outdated assumptions, all of which must be dealt with before a broad exemption/levy scheme would be viable in Canada.

On balance, I argue that the downside of levies outweighs any benefits. There are better, market-based ways of compensating artists and other rights-holders who create content that drives the digital economy. Here’s the full text of my article: