from The Globe and Mail
ISPs avoid royalties for music downloads
Internet service providers do not have to pay royalties to composers and artists for music downloaded by web customers, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Wednesday.
The court ruled 9-0 that companies providing wide access to the web are merely “intermediaries” who are not bound by federal copyright legislation.
At issue was an effort by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) to force Internet service providers to pay a tariff.
SOCAN also argued, in effect, to extend Canadian copyright law beyond the country’s borders and apply it to offshore websites that serve Canadians.
Opposing the effort was the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, including the Canadian subsidiaries of some of the world’s high-tech giants such as Bell, Sprint, AOL, MCI, IBM and Yahoo.
The internet service providers (ISPs) argued that artists should seek royalties directly from websites that offer their works, not from the companies that provide wider-ranging access to the Web.
The case was closely watched abroad because of the international implications for the computer and music industries.
SOCAN’s effort contrasted with the different legal route taken by the recording industry in the United States, where the usual tactic has been to sue particular file-sharing services and the individual customers who download music from them.
The attempt to collect instead from ISPs was significant because they provide an easier target for litigation than tracking down a myriad of individual websites and customers.