Mint charges musician pretty penny for use of coin image

The Royal Canadian Mint is charging a fee to musician Dave Gunning for the image of the Canadian penny he is using on his upcoming album.

Dave Gunning launches penny drive among fans to cover fees

Dave Gunning has launched a 'penny drive' to pay copyright fees to the mint for an image of the penny on his album cover. (Chris Smith)

Halifax folk musician Dave Gunning wanted to pay tribute to the soon-to-vanish Canadian penny in song with his upcoming album No More Pennies.

But the Royal Canadian Mint was not happy about the image of the Canadian penny he is using on the album cover. It says Gunning is contravening copyright and must pay a fee.

For every 2000 copies of the album he creates he has to fill out an application, wait for approval and be charged $1,200.

So, Gunning has launched a penny drive, requesting that fans bring pennies to his fall shows so he can afford to issue his album.

The Ottawa-based mint has waived the fee on the first 2,000 albums, to come out Sept. 18. But it is firm that Gunning must pay up for future releases.

A mint spokeswoman confirmed that there is copyright on images of coins.

"The Mint has an Intellectual Property Policy in place to protect its IP assets, which includes coin images, and ensure their appropriate use. In instances where an approved use is being made for commercial gain (as would be the case with an ad campaign or selling music CDs), royalty fees are applied," she said in a statement.

Ironically, it was a fan trying to help who alerted the mint to Gunning’s tribute to the penny.

"Turns out I have a big fan who works for the Canadian mint. He got the idea, ‘the Canadian mint should get behind this. Maybe we could actually sell the CD in our gift shop,’" Gunning told CBC's Mainstreet.

"But when he brought it to the attention of his co-workers, somebody in the intellectual property department picked up and said ‘wait a sec – Dave Gunning has never applied to use the image of the penny.’ He was trying to do something good and it clearly backfired."

Gunning said he had no idea the mint would charge for images of its coins. His album was already being produced so he quickly made an application.

The artwork for No More Pennies was by Michael Wrycraft, a Juno award-winning artist who has created over  CD packages for artists such as Stompin' Tom, Ron Hynes, Gordon Lightfoot and Bruce Cockburn. It was meant to be a tasteful tribute to the penny, which the mint will stop making in 2012.

The image on the front cover of the CD is of a person sitting at a lunch counter trying to scrape up enough change to pay for his cup of coffee, while on the back is a sunset with the sun as a penny setting below the horizon.  Inside is a lithograph of an old steam train and the wheels of the train are little pennies.

No More Pennies features 12 original songs by Gunning and collaborators such as George Canyon, David Francey, Bruce Guthro, Lennie Gallant and Scottish songstress Karine Polwart. Gunning won two 2011 East Coast Music Awards for his last album, A Tribute to John Allan Cameron.