NDP MP Charlie Angus says that extending the private copying levy to devices will legalize the act of moving content between them. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

NDP copyright critic Charlie Angus has introduced a private member's bill that aims to add a new tax to MP3 players and extend users' rights to make copies of digital content.

The bill, C-499, 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, 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.

"Digital locks and suing fans are not going to prevent people from copying music from one format to another. The levy is a solution that works," Angus said in a release.

"By updating it, we will ensure that artists are getting paid for their work, and that consumers aren’t criminalized for moving their legally obtained music from one format to another."

"The fair dealing provisions of the Copyright Act have been characterized by the Supreme Court as a key user’s right. The futures of the creative, innovation and education communities all hinge on a reasonable interpretation of fair dealing."

Efforts rejected

Courts have rejected several previous efforts to extend the private copying levy to devices.

In 2008, the Federal Court of Appeal rejected a plan that would have seen a levy ranging from $5 to $75, depending on storage size, applied to MP3 players, computers and other devices. Canadian retailers opposed the plan and said raising prices on electronics would cause consumers to buy more from the U.S.

On Tuesday, Heritage Minister James Moore said he was opposed to Angus's proposed bill in a message on Twitter.

"I am against the NDP's new proposed tax on ipods/blackberries/iphones/laptops/MP3 players," he wrote. "Consumers deserve lower, not higher taxes."

The federal government indicated in its throne speech two weeks ago it will again try to introduce copyright reform legislation.

The Conservatives have tried twice before — they were forced to abandon a prepared plan in 2007 after public backlash over leaked details, which indicated the legislation was overly skewed in favour of copyright holders. A second attempt, in 2008, died on the order paper when the government dissolved the house for the election.

Moore and Industry Minister Tony Clement held cross-country consultations last year in preparation for a third, as yet undisclosed, effort to update copyright laws.