Wednesday, January 28, 2004

And now for some Canadian news ...

Music copyright war goes to Supreme Court
SOCAN calls for blanket net tariff. Web sites offering downloads should pay royalties, if anyone, Internet providers say

CanWest New Service (Submitted by Vito Pilieci) The Ottawa Citizen 2003 Montreal Gazette

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

An association representing music composers and publishers is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to force Internet providers to pay millions in royalties for allowing music files to be shared on the Internet.

The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, which helps protect the copyrighted works of music artists by collecting royalty payments and distributing the money to artists, will argue its case before the Supreme Court beginning tomorrow morning.

The association is asking that a blanket tariff be implemented, to allow it to collect as much as 10 per cent of the annual revenues of Canada's Internet providers.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian Internet service providers reported revenues of $1.3 billion in 2001.

Canadian Internet providers claim they have no control over what people do with their Internet connections and if anyone should pay royalties it should be the Web sites offering music downloads.

"CHUM has their own MuchMusic Web site. SOCAN could easily go to MuchMusic and license them," said Jay Thomson, president of the Canadian Association of Internet Provid-ers.

"Somebody will have to pay the tariff. We are saying it should be those that control the content."

If SOCAN is successful in arguing its case, the outcome could prompt other groups - including software publishers, authors, photographers and even the movie industry - to use the legal precedent to try and collect more royalty payments from Internet service providers.

SOCAN has also asked the Supreme Court to address certain jurisdictional issues and how they pertain to Internet providers. Specifically, it has asked if companies can be held accountable for Web-site content, accessible by Canadians but located on Internet servers in other countries.

The decision could raise issues about who will be held accountable for objectionable content hosted on computers residing overseas.

"This is quite important, it's groundbreaking," said Mark Perry, a professor of law and computer science at the University of Western Ontario in London.

"If you say that Internet service providers are responsible for content, then it makes their life a lot more difficult."

SOCAN already collects royalties on blank CDs, DVDs and cassettes, as well as annual fees from bars, restaurants, store owners, TV and radio stations and skating rinks. In 2002, the collective received more than $121.9 million in royalty payments.

If SOCAN argues its case successfully, Thomson said, Canadian Internet providers will have no choice but to increase monthly access fees.

"Initially, the tariff would affect all of the ISPs and then through them it would affect all of their customers," he said.

"It is going to be quite dramatic if we lose this case."