Canadians should be taxed for streaming TV shows and movies, music composers say

March 31, 2018 : Close up Netflix website in laptop screen. Netflix being popular internationally. wutwhanfoto / Getty Images

A proposal from the Screen Composer’s Guild of Canada (SCGC) says the government should impose a tax or levy on consumers who download over 15 gigabytes of data a month.

The proposal was presented to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, which is tasked with helping to update copyright laws in the country.

According to a brief by the guild and posted online by Digital Music News, officials are requesting that artists that write for television shows or movies should be compensated more – specifically from the proceeds of a tax on people who download a lot of content.

They say artists who write scores are seeing a large drop in revenue when their shows are streamed on platforms like Youtube and Netflix.

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“Our members are seeing declines of up to 95 per cent when comparing 21st-century digital distribution revenue to the traditional 20th-century broadcast model,” SCGC president John Welsman told Global News.

To combat that drop, the guild suggests enacting a “copyright levy” which would see internet consumers pay a tax if they download more than 15 gigabytes of data per month.

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They say 15 gigabytes is enough to surf the web, check your email and shop online. But any more, and you are likely watching Netflix or other media through the internet.

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But internet activists call this type of tax naïve, and say it punishes the consumer by charging twice for the same content.

“It doesn’t understand how people actually use the internet,” Laura Tribe, executive director of Open Media, told Global News.

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By assuming someone who uses more than 15 gigabytes of data is automatically watching content is unrealistic, she said.

She also says Canadians are already paying for streaming services to legally watch movies and TV shows, and a tax like this would mean they are paying twice.

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It would also disproportionately affect lower-income people, those who can’t afford to spend the extra money.

She also called the proposed tax a Band-Aid solution to a larger issue.

“The real fundamental problem is support for, and funding for creators and making sure that people are adequately being compensated,” Tribe said.

She said alternative solutions could include charging sales tax on streaming services or to increase funding by the government for creators.

In a statement sent to Global News, the SCGC said it’s considering alternatives to the internet tax or levy.

“The SCGC is considering a number of initiatives to address alarming reports from our membership about declining remuneration due to outdated Canadian copyright policy,” Welsman wrote.

“As a professional trade organization, we are committed to the notion of balancing public access to content with an updated model of compensation for content creators that takes into account the new realities of a digital world.”

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The government wouldn’t comment on the specific proposal.

“The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is conducting a study on remuneration models for artists and creative industries. The Department looks forward to the Committees’ reports,” a spokesperson from the Department of Canadian Heritage told Global News in an email.

Global News reached out to internet service providers, but did not hear back by time of publication.

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