The eyes of the world are once again on Canada!

Canada Songwriters Eye Royalties From ISPs
Canada’s songwriters sought to require that Internet service providers pay for their users’ music downloading habits in a case that could generate millions of dollars in music royalties.
In the case Canada’s Supreme Court heard Wednesday, the 70,000-member Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada also wants to extend the nation’s copyright law beyond its borders by applying it to offshore Web sites that serve Canadians.
“I believe that those who benefit from selling access to music should compensate the creators,” said David Basskin, president of the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, whose agency oversees royalties from CDs and includes many of SOCAN’s members.
Analysts said the case could have far-reaching implications worth millions if not billions of dollars, especially as the music industry tries to rebound from declining sales in traditional stores.
The case could change how artists are compensated, how far a country can go to extract payment, what gets put on the Internet and how recording companies serve buyers, they said.
SOCAN argues that everyone is downloading music, so all ISPs should pay a blanket royalty fee.
Fighting the effort is the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, which includes Canadian subsidiaries of some of the tech world’s heavy hitters: Bell, Sprint, AOL, MCI, IBM and Yahoo.
Jay Thomson, the service provider group’s president, said artists should seek royalties directly from Web site operators, not from ISPs simply because they are a convenient target.
SOCAN’s effort contrasts with the more litigious approach in the United States, where the recording industry has sued file-sharing services along with individuals who use them. The industry filed another round of lawsuits Wednesday.
The tariff model has been used for the past three years in Canada as a tax on blank cassettes and CDs, ostensibly to compensate for the loss of royalties on home-recorded music. To date the measure has collected $20.5 million.
Richard Owens, executive director of the Center for Innovation Law and Policy at the University of Toronto, questions whether such a model would work on the Internet.
“I’m not sure people using the Internet for perfectly legal reasons should have to pay for problems in the music industry,” he said.
Casey Chisick, a copyright and entertainment lawyer in Toronto, said the case could open the door to whether Canadian ISPs are liable for any illegal content they may carry, such as music or pornography.
In the United States, service providers are generally exempted from liability, though they must take steps to remove or block materials upon request to preserve their immunity.
The Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides and is expected to rule in six to 12 months.
John Perry Barlow, a Harvard Law School fellow and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, told The Associated Press that SOCAN would be in a “unique, absurd and untenable” position if it won.
“I can’t imagine SOCAN effectively policing every Web site on the planet,” he said. “Nor can I imagine a Web site in Singapore paying much attention to what the Supreme Court of Canada says.”