Downloading MP3s from peer-to-peer networks continues to be legal in Canada

In one of the most overlooked stores in 2003, the Copyright Board of Canada ruled that downloading copyrighted music from peer-to-peer networks was a legal practice for Canadians. The legal rationale? We pay for those downloads through a tariff when we buy MP3 players, or blank digital media like CD-Rs and DVD-/+R discs.

In its decision Friday, the Copyright Board said uploading or distributing copyrighted works online appeared to be prohibited under current Canadian law. However, the country’s copyright law does allow making a copy for personal use and does not address the source of that copy or whether the original has to be an authorized or noninfringing version, the board said.

Under those laws, certain media are designated as appropriate for making personal copies of music, and producers pay a per-unit fee into a pool designed to compensate musicians and songwriters. Most audio tapes and CDs, and now MP3 players, are included in that category. Other mediums, such as DVDs, are not deemed appropriate for personal copying.

Since that time, the government and various groups like the Canadian version of the RIAA have been grumbling and working on chucking out the tariff system in order to return to making MP3 downloading an illegal practice. Now it looks like those efforts have been stymied: A variety of sources are reporting that, last week, the Copyright Board of Canada released its proposed tariff for 2007 for the private copying levy.

According to, this tariff we’re paying (rather generously I might add, considering blank media is hardly always used for audio recording purposes) doesn’t cover copying music to an iPod or other MP3 player. I’m not sure what they’re basing that on, but it makes little sense: How can you place the tariff on MP3 players and simultaneously tell us we can’t actually use those players for what we just paid extra to do?