Geist: The Private Copying Levy Distortion

Republishing: The Private Copying Levy Distortion by Michael Geist

The Copyright Board of Canada last week released its proposed tariff for 2007 for the private copying levy.

The numbers remain unchanged: 21 cents per CD-R. As prices have dropped, however, the levy now frequently comprises a significant percentage of the retail price. Consider the purchase of 100 blank Maxell CDs. Future Shop retails the 100 CDs for $69.99. The breakdown of this sale is $48.99 for the CDs and $21.00 for the levy (even worse is a current Future Shop deal of 200 blank CD-Rs from HP, which retails for $59.99. The levy alone on this sale is $42.00 (200 CDs x 21 cents/CD) which leaves the consumers paying $17.99 for the CDs and $42.00 for the levy).

This results in a huge distortion in retail pricing when compared to the U.S. market which does not have a levy system. For example, the same Maxell CDs retail for US$34.99 at CompUSA. When you add in the exchange differential, the Canadian cost is just over $40.00. Obviously the price is slightly lower in the US even without the levy (35 cents per CD vs. 40 cents per CD). With the levy, the price increases by another 50 percent.

Given how little Canadians get for their money (the private copying right doesn't cover copying CDs to Apple iPods) is it any wonder that countries such as Australia are considering allowing for such private copying without a levy scheme? The solution in Canada is obvious: either ensure that the levy covers the full panoply of private copying as is the case in France or drop the levy altogether and institute a fair use user right.