To fees on devices the Harper Government says: yes, no,... err.. what was the question?

In a press release and news conference speech the "Harper Government" alleges to not want to increase costs or otherwise devalue the devices Canadians wish to purchase and own. Minister Paradis claimed that "Placing a new fee on devices with removable memory cards, such as BlackBerrys and smart phones, would increase costs for Canadian families and impact the adoption of the latest technologies."

I say claim not because I disagree that devaluing the devices we own is unwarranted and unfair to Canadians, but that the "Harper Government" did far worse within C-11 than they are alleging to "fix" now.

The additional fees they are directly talking about relate to the private copying regime, which is sections 79 through 88 of the Copyright Act. The "Harper Government" protected the existing private copying regime in Bill C-11.

The new section 29.22 (Reproduction for private purposes) includes the following

(3) In the case of a work or other subject-matter that is a musical work embodied in a sound recording, a performer’s performance of a musical work embodied in a sound recording or a sound recording in which a musical work or a performer’s performance of a musical work is embodied, subsection (1) does not apply if the reproduction is made onto an audio recording medium as defined in section 79.

Translation: The "Harper Government" went out of their way to keep the levy system intact, rather than remove the levy for activities that would otherwise have been covered by this exception to copyright.

(More details).

You have to ask why they protected a regime they claim to dislike. Did they keep the regime intact so that they can drag it out during a future election campaign, claiming it is the scary opposition parties that want to "bring it back"? The reason it would be trivial to bring back is because the "Harper Government" actively protected it, making it only a minor regulation change rather than a legislative change to have levies applied to devices.

The misdirection from this media event only begins at the protection of the private copying levy. For those who understand simple math the issue is money for value. While adding a levy to a device increases the cost without increasing any value, adding a non-owner lock on a device lowers the value without lowering the cost.

A device that will only ever do what its manufacturer authorizes it to do, and doesn't allow its owner (or someone who would buy it used) to enhance it through changing the software, has lower value. While there are some people who might send these devices prematurely to landfill without extending their value, Bill C-11 makes it it a circumvention of a technological measure for the owner to attempt to extend this value.

When I compare the relatively minor cost-increase proposed for the levy to the wealth destruction by disallowing owners to make their own independant software choices, it is hard to take the speech remotely seriously. Everything that Industry Minister Paradis said about the minor impact of levies applies to the much larger impact of non-owner locks on devices.

I invite everyone to read what Mr. Paradis said about levies on devices and substitute the word locks. Mr. Paradis was giving a few of the arguments those of us fighting for the property rights of device owners have been giving for years, except he is the Minister primarily responsible for a wealth destroying bill which did the opposite to what he was saying.