Photographers Augment Musicians’ Income

October 30, 2013 at 11:30 am  •  Posted in Industry, News & Events by

Should photographers augment musicians income?

Should photographers augment musicians income?

According to the Canadian Imaging Trade Association, in a report dated October 2012, there was an annual average of 3,516,736 digital cameras imported into Canada between the years 2007 and 2011. One can safely assume there would be at least an equal number of digital media cards, if not significantly more, sold to the camera purchaser during the same time period.

Since 1999 Canadians have been paying a levy on compact disc and audio cassette purchases — currently the fee is established at 29 cents per CD. To put that in context, a CD currently costs about 50 cents per disc; so, about 58% of the cost of each CD purchased in Canada is routed back to the music industry through the Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC).

According to CPCC, it has “distributed $219 million of the $269 million available for the years 2000 to 2010.” However, its receivables are trending downward as fewer compact discs are being sold in favour of MP3 style devices and external hard drives.

At a recent hearing for an expansion to include microSD cards in the tariff, CPCC had proposed to the Board “to maintain the current rate of 29¢ per blank CD and to set rates of 50¢ per microSD card of one gigabyte or less, $1.00 per card of more than one but less than eight gigabytes, and $3.00 per card of eight gigabytes or more. It argued that both blank CDs and microSD cards qualify as audio recording media and that the proposed rates are reasonable.” The Board ultimately ruled to retain the current tariff structure on compact discs and disallowed the inclusion of microSD in the royalty scheme. The Board did recognize that microSD is a recordable media according to the Copyright Act, and the only reason these devices were not subjected to the tariff is because of a technical issue regarding the date of a government regulation.

The challenge CPCC faces is how to regain its revenue stream, and it has no alternative but to again apply to the Copyright Board of Canada to either increase the levy value on compact discs, or to broaden the scope of what is deemed “recordable media.”

It stands to reason any recording media used in the photography community can also be utilized to record sound. In other words recording media is not exclusive to the music industry.

In all fairness to musicians, the illegal copying and distribution of their work is a massive problem that erodes their capacity to earn a living. The same can be said of all creators, however, and photographers are not excluded from this scourge.

The current levy administered by Canadian Private Copying Collective places photographers at a financial disadvantage by paying a royalty to the music industry simply because we both use the same media to store our copyrighted works.

The challenge is to find a fair and equitable means to compensate creators in such a manner as to not be a detriment to other creators. The answer is not to tax microSD cards, a media used primarily for recording images.