Memorial University biology professor Ian Jones has nothing personal against Brittany Spears, her recording company, or the thousands of fans who make home copies of her music. He just resents having to subsidize their symbiotic relationship.
In his work on seabirds, Jones makes extensive use of blank compact discs to store and distribute photographic images and statistical data. Whenever he buys a disc, $0.21 of the purchase price is forwarded to a collective society of music industry groups known as the Canadian Private Copying Collective.
The levy, provided under the Copyright Act and officially called the "private copying tariff," is meant to compensate the recording industry for lost sales arising from the private copying of music.
"The difficulty with the tariff is that it applies indiscriminately to virtually all purchasers of blank recording media, regardless of whether the end use is to burn copies of top-40 hits or to map the human genome," Jones said.
For example, a single astronomical image can fill half a CD, and educational institutions say the cost the tariff is adding to teaching and research is significant.
As a result the academic community is mobilizing against the levy. When it was first announced in December 2000, universities argued for special treatment and were partially successful in their effort. A "zero-rate" was obtained on audio cassettes, but not on other forms of recording media such as compact discs, DVDs or memory cards.
On Feb. 11, 2002 the CPCC filed proposed levies to be collected for 2003 and 2004 with the Copyright Board, the tribunal that sets the tariff and oversees its administration.
CAUT, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, along with many other educational organizations filed objections to the proposed tariffs calling for an expansion of the "zero-rating program."
The academic community is hoping for levy-free purchases, especially considering the CPCC is requesting almost 300 per cent increases on some of its levies on private copying. The proposed levy for a recordable or rewritable compact disc is $0.59.
The education community has a strong argument to make, said legal counsel for CMEC, Wanda Noel, "the logical reasoning indicating that a zero-rate is appropriate for cassettes applies equally well to compact discs. It's that simple."
The Copyright Board will hear arguments at a hearing in October 2002.
Information on the private copying tariffs can be viewed at www.cb-cda.gc.ca/ tariffs/proposed/c09032002-b.pdf.