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Just the other day there was a report in the local newspaper that the Songwriters’ Association of Canada is pushing to have a $5 surcharge added to everyone’s monthly internet bill. This surcharge would make it legal for anyone to then download music as the surcharge would, theoretically, offset the lost royalties for recording artists and songwriters that has been occurring for the past several years.

There has been a bit of an uproar in the “Letters to the Editor” section of newspapers, as there are a large number of internet subscribers who do not download. In the main the outcry boils down to two points – it’s the youngsters who are downloading massive amounts of music, and the older folks just need the internet for keeping in touch with their kids, grandkids and checking email.

The problem I see with this surcharge is that it’s going to piss off a lot of folks. We already have a surcharge tax on recordable media – cassettes, CDs, DVD-R. The individuals who use massive amounts of them at one go tend to not be involved in illegal downloading of music but are using them for such mundane activities as computer backups, storing code and so forth.

Why are people downloading music, illegally or legally? Has the recording industry, instead of blaming the internet, actually looked at itself? It produces pap like the Simpson Sisters, Britney, and we are inundated with yearly releases of American Idol contestants. There hasn’t been any decent music produced and distributed by the major record labels in years. Interesting artists such as Tori Amos, VNV Nation, Loreena McKennitt and underground groups are not receiving the marketing that the pap does.

So we have pap that is being produced. What is the other culprit? Cost of the CDs. There was a report a few years ago in which it was pointed out that it cost $0.75 to produce a CD – the cost of the CD and the royalties to the artists. And yet we have CDs costing between $15-$30.

It’s time the recording industry, and their buddies at the Songwriters’s Association of Canada (and other counterparts throughout the world), took a good long & hard look at themselves before trying to suck yet more money out of the public.