Conservatives voiced their opposition Wednesday to a private member's bill that would add a tax to MP3 players and extend users' rights to make copies of digital content.
NDP copyright critic Charlie Angus introduced bill C-499 on Tuesday. It would extend the private copying levy — which adds a small tax to all blank media, such as CDs and DVDs — to devices that can reproduce media, including MP3 players and computers.
The levy, originally introduced in 1997, goes to a fund that is then returned to artists, publishers and record labels as compensation for the copying.
Angus, the MP for Timmins-James Bay, also wants an expansion of the "fair dealing" principle, which would expand the exemption for non-commercial copying to researchers, innovators and educators.
He said both provisions need to be enshrined in law to ensure that ordinary behaviour by Canadians isn't eventually criminalized.
But in the House, Heritage Minister James Moore promised the government would "fight this new tax every single step of the way."
Since coming to power, the Conservatives have injected much money into supporting artists, including more money for the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canada Music Fund. A new levy is out of the question, Moore said.
"It's not in the interest of the music industry to make it more expensive to buy the devices on which they're listening to Canadian content," he said. "It doesn't serve the Conservatives' Canadian cultural community."
David Basskin, a spokesperson for the Canadian Private Copying Collective, said he's disappointed the Conservatives aren't seeing this as an issue of the property rights of businesspeople.
"It's easy to say it would be better if people got it for free, but wouldn't that be true of gasoline, groceries, taxes?"
So far, the bill has the full support of only the Bloc Québécois, which is not enough to pass. The Liberals and at least one Conservative agreed to continue discussion of the issue in committee.