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.