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Blank media tax

A blank media tax (or blank media levy) is a government-mandated scheme in which a special tax (additional to any general sales tax) is levied on recordable media. Such taxes are levied in various counties and the income is typically allocated to the developers of "content".

Such a tax may be linked to a corresponding relaxation of copyright law, by permitting the recording of copyrighted works on media for which the tax has been paid. It may operate in principle as a system of collectivisation, partially replacing a property approach of sale of individual units.

A difficulty that immediately arises is the practical impossibility of devising a mechanism for distributing the proceeds to copyright holders that is considered "fair" by all copyright holders. Implemented systems are typically restricted to music and may distribute the proceeds proportionally to a measurement of sales of CDss in music shops or amount of air-play on radio or the like. This will ignore other distribution channels such as the Internet. Fairer methods would arguably involve extensive sampling of purchasers to determine actual recording behaviour, or alternatively paying all musicians at a simple flat-rate (the preferred method will depend on ones political views).

An implementation question that arises is whether the tax applies to any type of copyrighted work or is restricted to a limited field such as music. If it is restricted then the issue arises of how to collect the tax on media which can also be used for other purposes. The options include:

Examples of countries operating such schemes:


A scheme was introduced in Canada in 1999 or 2000, following a modication of the Canadian copyright act. The power to set rates and distribute the returns is vested in the Copyright Board Canada. The Copyright Board has handed the task of distributing the funds to the Canadian Private Copying Collective, which is a private organisation. The Copyright Board has retained the task of setting the rate of the tax.

In Canada:

External links