The Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC) won a decision on July 19 from the Copyright Board of Canada to reintroduce a controversial tariff fee into the sale price of MP3 players in Canada.

The CPCC, the Toronto-based non-profit collective of composers, recording artists, publishers, and record labels, is charged with collecting and distributing private copying royalties in Canada.

In its decision on the 2003-2004 Private Copying Tariff, the Board had approved the CPCC's request for a levy on the hard disk or flash memory that is embedded in iPods and other MP3 players, which the Board referred to as digital audio recorders.

However, two years ago, the Federal Court of Appeal struck down the levy, ruled that the Board had erred because it hadn't yet been made clear if MP3 players fell into the category of "audio recording media" and were under the Board's jurisdiction.

The decision meant that manufacturers had to reimburse the $15 ($14.30 US) and $25 ($23.87 US) retail surcharges on MP3 players to consumers collected since 2003. In total, the CCPC had to reimburse almost $4 million ($3.8 million).

At Board hearings last month in Ottawa, the CPCC argued that the digital audio recorder qualified as an audio recording medium under the Canadian Copyright Act and that the Board had the authority to impose a tariff.

This was challenged by the Canadian Storage Media Alliance and the Retail Council of Canada, who argued that the Federal Court had already struck down a previous levy on digital audio recorders as outside the Canadian Copyright Act.

The CSMA and RCC also argued that the Board had no jurisdiction to consider or approve the levy and therefore the CPCC should be prevented from proposing it.

The Board, however, sided with the CPCC. Its decision not only indicated that its earlier decision had not foreclosed the possibility of a levy on digital audio recorders but also now indicated that the levy could also be applied further to cell phones and computers.

Barring an appeal, the door is now open for an MP3 player levy to be introduced in Canada on Jan. 1, 2008.

The CPCC has already filed a motion with the Copyright Board that the levy be $5 Canadian ($4.79) for each recorder with less than 1 GB of memory, $25 Canadian for each device with more than 1 GB but below 10 GB of memory, $50 Canadian ($47.89) for each recorder with more than 10 GB and below 30 GB, and $75 Canadian ($71.84) for each recorder with more than 30 GB of memory.

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