Addicted to novelty since 2001

Should ISPs Monitor Content?

The Supreme Court of Canada is currently hearing an important case about music copyright and ISPs. Basically, the Society of Canadian Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (inexplicably reduced to SOCAN) want ISPs to pay a tarriff on downloaded Canadian music. This is deeply worrying and deeply wrong, because it makes the ISPs responsible for the content they provide. Is the phone company responsible for what’s said on their phone lines? From a CBC article on the case:

The people who represent Canadian artists say everyone who has a hand in transmitting recorded music is liable. “Creative people should be compensated for the use and exploitation of their music, ” said Paul Spurgeon, general counsel for the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. “We’re obviously in a struggle right now trying to figure out the best techniques to ensure that they are compensated appropriately.”

This is ridiculous logic. Will we sue road crews for car accidents, because the road ‘had a hand’ in the accident? Are needle manufacturers culpable for drug addiction? Presumably this tariff on ISPs would be generic, and widespread, so that every Canadian who uses the Internet would shoulder a portion of the cost. This is also tremendously questionable. Canadians already pay a levy on recordable media, even if they’ve never copied a tape or a CD.

This legal approach is classic short-term, narrow-minded thinking by the record industry. SOCAN has had at least ten years to think about this problem, and five of those were Napster-free. After all that, what’s the best that they can come up with–a tax on every Canadian Internet user, and a restriction of our digital rights by levying ISPs.

3 Responses to “Should ISPs Monitor Content?”

  1. Todd

    The logic is very skewed, and I thought of the phone company comparison immediately as well. I wonder how the supporters of this idea would respond to the question about their phone calls being monitored for the use of registered trademarks, and having a royalty charge appear on their phone bill every time they mentioned Kleenex or Walkman or Microsoft? Here’s hoping this bad idea doesn’t go past this round of hearings.

  2. Mel

    SOCAN pisses me off. They send my business (a fitness centre) letters all the time warning us to pay the $250/year license fee for the use of music in our facility, “or else”. (On an interesting note, they only charge U.S. franchises something like $40/year.) You’d think a more effective way to collect these fees would just be to put a tarrif on the (specialty) CDs that we buy.

  3. harp

    SOCAN is completely twisted. Even when you’re on the other end of the stick, the royalty cheques they send you aren’t too great considering what they charge everyone else to play their music. They limit what radio can play (mostly SOCAN-approved talent only) and they monopolize what we get to hear when we’re out and about.

    You’d figure with the levy on blank media they’d be bloody happy. Or their inferior, sound-sucking ‘Copy Control’ they’re sticking on everything now (or apparently will by the start of 2004). Now that the Phillips CD redbook standards are being ignored for mass-produced CDs, I’m done with buying music for the most part.

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