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Tony Clement won't stand for a tax on his iPhone - or yours

Industry Minister Tony Clement gives an interview at his Parliament Hill office on Nov. 5, 2010.

DAVE CHAN/dave chan The Globe and Mail

Tony Clement, iPhone owner and federal Industry Minister, is unmoved by a renewed call for a federal fee on smart phones and handhelds to compensate artists for file-swapping.

He says Canadians won't stand for a tax on their iPads or BlackBerrys - one that would hurt the market for these products.

He considers the recommendation - made most recently by an artists' group this week - a dinosaur of an idea.

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Mr. Clement says it's up to artists to find a new way to make money in the age of Internet distribution.

For eight years, Canada has levied a charge on the purchase of compact discs that is supposed to compensate artists for the private copying of music. But fewer and fewer people use CDs to share music. The levy - currently 29 cents per compact disc - collects only $15-million a year now.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists held a two-day blitz on Parliament Hill this week asking for Ottawa to extend the blank copying levy to digital media.

Mr. Clement isn't buying the pitch.

"The business model that the original levy was [based]on has changed. The whole music industry has changed. The whole entertainment industry has changed," he told reporters.

"The fact of the matter is that Canadians do not expect that their handheld devices, their iPhones, their BlackBerrys, their smart phones, their iPods are going to be subject to a made-in-Canada tax."

The Industry Minister warned such a levy could create a "gray market or black market" for devices to avoid the tax.

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He said Ottawa feels the best thing it can do is target big-time music and video pirates through its proposed new copyright legislation.

"This bill ... goes after the bad guys, the guys that are destroying value for commercial - for commercial ends or just because they get a kick out of doing so."

Mr. Clement said some artists have figured out how to make money in an age where audio files can be freely traded - and urged others to follow their lead.

"Many creators have come up with ways to create a new revenue stream whether through the internet or by other means for their creation and that's what I would encourage ours to do as well."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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