The headline reads "Canada deems P2P downloading legal," (via Jenny) announcing what people have been speculating for months. The gist of the story is that in .ca customers pay a fee to cover piracy unlicensed copying costs on every mp3 player, every blank CD-R, every blank tape. Because of this, they are free to copy music for personal use, which means that they can download to their hearts’ content. Uploading, it seems, is right out.
The EFF has been advocating this as a possible solution to piracy unlicensed copying as part of their Let the Music Play campaign. Scott Matthews wrote a very good critique of the EFF’s position, to which the EFF responded.
There is a lot wrong with this compulsory license setup. If I suddenly started paying a tax on all my CD-Rs, why would I ever buy a CD again? The music industry right now is competing with free, which Evian proves isn’t always a losing battle. But when I’m already paying, suddenly the music industry is competing with negative cost. The only industry that works with negative costs is the garbage industry, and there’s bound to be some good jokes in comparing the RIAA with them.
Also, who decides where the money goes? Is it based on the number of downloads? More importantly what is music? The aforementioned Scott Matthews does a good job asking that question with Baudio, which turns any file into an audio file. If compulsory licensing applies to audio files, any copyright producer can get money by distributing their work as audio. LawMeme discusses this further (via /.).
A compulsory license isn’t a precision instrument, either. Whenever a Canadian purchases CD-Rs to burn music they made themselves, they are paying the copyright board for pirated unlicensed copied music. How much sense does that make? There is so much collateral damage in a system like this that it is absurd. Luckily the article claims that computer hard drives aren’t going to be taxed, for now.
But the weirdest part of the situation is that while it’s legal to download, it’s illegal to upload. What are they supposed to download if no one is allowed to upload. Let’s say hypothetically that suddenly everyone started obeying copyright law. The P2P networks would have millions of Canadians ready to download and no one uploading. Why is only half of the transfer equation taken into consideration?
While I commend the Canadians for doing something other than harassing children and the elderly, it’s certainly not a closed case. Let’s see some real solutions on the table instead of what is being pumped through the governments now.
(Looks like MeFi has some interesting discussion on the subject)


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