Monday, March 22, 2010

CBC News - Canada - MP3 tax bill opposed by Conservatives

CBC News - Canada - MP3 tax bill opposed by Conservatives

It likely would come as a surprise to many if I said that I actually supported the original levy. The reason was simple - it's a hidden tax that I didn't know I was paying, and by ponying up those extra few dollars, I could rest assured that my downloading activities would be allowed.

The problem with a levy like this is that it uses a pretty wide stroke to paint everyone as an intellectual property thief and make you prepay your penance for "stealing from the artists". If I use one of those CDs or DVDs that I paid the levy on for my own home movies, or to create my own music, or to write data that I can then transfer to other computers, then I have essentially given the artists a small payment with no benefit to myself.

Most Conservatives are fighting this as just another tax increase, and to be quite frank, it is. The NDP sponsor of the bill calls this an "update" to the previous levy bill which didn't include today's media like SD cards, multifunction devices, or indeed, even cell phones. He states that many people merely download music and store it on their devices without actually putting it on a cd or dvd, and thus, these additional devices should be included in the levy.

I say "no" to this. I wouldn't expect an NDP party member to understand the fundamental truth of our economic system - that artists really do make much money on royalties. And realistically, that would not change regardless of how many levies you impose on the average consumer. No, artists make money when they sell tickets to view their work, be it the garage band touring clubs or bars, the superstars playing to full stadiums, the comedian playing to a packed house, or the sculpture or painter showing their work in an exhibit. All of these people benefit more from the exposure that a particular download of the art (be it music, video, etc) brings than they would from the actual sale of the art itself.

Kevin Smith, a personal favourite writer/director states very clearly that his theatrical releases are just one large extended commercial for his movie's DVD sales, that as long as his films do moderately well at the box office, then they will clean up in DVD sales and he will continue to be fed money to create new movies. Nickelback earned $200,000 US per show 7 years ago when they hit it big. All of their royalties combined on all of their record sales from the beginning of their career wouldn't match what they make on one 100 date sold out tour in 1 year.

I understand what the NDP are trying to do here, attempting to become more friendly with their base while adding yet another feather to the "Conservatives hate artists" tar and feather parade, but in reality, they are driving more and more people to new gadgets that may not have the levy while adding resentment to those who have to pay the levy unjustly.

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