Basskin Misrepresents Media Levy

David Basskin, Director of the CanadianPrivate Copying Collective, has written a letter to the Star in response to Michael Geist’s earlier comments about the media levy and its prospects of its being extended to mp3 players and perhaps even computer hard drives.

Basskin says “The private copying levy is an important source of revenue for music-rights holders and is an issue of fairness”, and goes on to claim that “The levy is often misunderstood. It is not a tax or subsidy, but payment to individual rights holders for use of music by Canadians in the privacy of their homes. Compensation for use – that’s fair”.

But of course the levy is NOT fair because it extracts funds from people who purchase data storage media for purposes having nothing to do with the products of Basskins’ clients and so in fact it IS a tax and subsidy.

What is particularly frustrating about this is the fact that there is a perfect opportunity for the sellers of music recordings to obtain compensation for whatever pattern of reproduction they expect from their customers, and that is at the point of sale. Extracting that compensation later from others who may have no interest in the product just amounts to artificially lowering the price. This may be good for sales and it may even be in the public interest to subsidize artistic products in some way, but this particular approach to gaining that subsidy is fundamentally dishonest and the legislators who were persuaded to go along with it have been conned and bamboozled.

One other aspect of this situation that is worth mentioning is that many who object to the levy might still be willing to entertain a more honestly defined subsidy – paid from honestly defined taxes. But taxes should be collected by the government not by private organizations.

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