Online music downloads & the murky copyright issues in Canada

Canadian downloaders have been S.O.L. lately, as Apple’s iTunes, Napster 2.0, and Real’s Rhapsody service are only available to people with a U.S. billing address. Enter Puretracks, a Windows-only Canadian service. The soon-to-be-launched service will be available to all Web visitors, but Sympatico members will get special deals.

They offer songs for $1.19 each, with some as low as 99 cents. Unfortunately, its catalogue is not as extensive as iTunes or Napster. While it is a sizeable collection, the few albums I was interested in purchasing were incomplete as only a limited number of tracks from each were available for purchase. This is probably not an issue for many customers, because most people prefer to cherry-pick individual tracks rather buy complete albums.

Unfortunately for music fans, the legality of digital music trading and copying in Canada remains murky. The Canadian Recording Industry Association said in February that it will sue file traders for trafficking in copyrighted music. The lawsuits are similar to those launched last year by the Recording Industry Association of America.

The difference in this country is that the Copyright Board of Canada ruled in December that the Copyright Act allows for personal, non-commercial copying of music, which includes downloads from the Internet. Fans of music downloading also note that Canadians pay a levy on blank media, such as CDs and cassettes, which is meant to compensate record companies for lost revenues from copying.

A Supreme Court of Canada ruling last week could also have an impact on the issue. The court ruled individuals could make a single copy of any material for research purposes without having to pay a licensing fee.

[via Montreal Gazette]