Canadians can legally download peer-to-peer music files, although uploading them is still illegal, the Canadian Copyright Board ruled Friday.
So long as music is being recorded purely for personal use, and not being sold, rented or otherwise disseminated to other people, its use is legal, the board said.
It does not matter whether the source of the recording is a pre-owned track, a borrowed CD or a track downloaded from the Internet, the board said. The combination of the latter two rules means that recording a CD for a friend is illegal, but handing the CD to the same friend and letting them make a copy for their own use is legal.
The Copyright Board's interpretation is wrong, and is likely to be found so by the courts, insists the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA).
"We welcome the confirmation that the distribution of someone else's music, known as uploading, is illegal," Richard Pfohl, general counsel for the CRIA said Monday.
Pfohl also noted that the regulatory board did recognize that in some cases, it will be up to the Canadian courts of civil jurisdiction to decide what is illegal.
"We also welcome the board's recognition that it is up to the court of civil jurisdiction to decide whether copying is illegal. It is a criminal matter in Canada, as elsewhere, and people engaging in copying should be aware that they might be subject to criminal law," Pfohl said.
A copy of music from an illegal source is itself illegal, Pfohl insisted. "It compounds the crime, it's a further violation and there's no reason for thinking that the new copy is somehow laundered," he said.
The board also imposed a levy on manufacturers and importers of MP3 music players with non-removable memory, depending on their storage capacity. Players with memory capacity of less than 1G byte will be subject to a levy of C$2 (US$1.52), those with between 1G byte and 10G bytes will be levied C$10, and any players with more than 10G bytes will face a levy of C$25.
The levies are paid to the Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC), which distributes the money to authors, performers and producers of music in Canada.
Current levies on recording media will remain the same until the end of 2004, the board said, at C$0.29 on audio tapes longer than 40 minutes, C$0.21 on CD-Rs (CD-recordables) and CD-RWs (CD-rewritables) and C$0.77 on CD-R Audio, CD-RW Audio and MiniDisks.
A request from the CPCC for levies on blank DVDs, removable memory cards and removable micro hard drives was turned down because the board did not believe they are ordinarily used for copying music, it said.
"The board has expressed an opinion and we don't happen to agree with that opinion. We disagree that the source of the copy is irrelevant, " David Baskin, a spokesman for the CPCC said. The matter may have to be settled by litigation, Baskin said.
The CRIA is also disappointed by the level of the levies, Pfohl said. "It will come nowhere near to compensating us. Since 1999, Canadian music producers have lost C$425 million in CD sales, largely due to illegal copying. We've received roughly C$2.5 million from the CPCC. Basically, the levies will come nowhere near to covering the damage suffered," he said.
The CPCC applied for much higher levies on a broader range of products, Baskin said. The levies aim to raise money for artists, "and C$25 is not an amount that will address the issue," he said.
The Copyright Board has aimed to protect the consumer, "but we don't think the balance is as fair as it could be," he said.