John Welsman, the president of the Screen Composer’s Guild of Canada (SCGC), has proposed a tax on downloads over 15GB, saying that when people’s internet traffic exceeds 15GB, it is likely that they are watching (too much) Netflix or downloading music. This idea is so preposterous, downright criminal, that it makes you wonder if Mr. Welsman should perhaps make an emergency appointment with a psychiatrist.
According to Mr. Welsman, there would not be any accurate analysis of a consumer’s internet traffic, allowing for different types of data to be distinguished. His tax would take effect on all traffic exceeding 15GB based on nothing more than a wild assumption.
People can easily exceed 15GB in downloads a month for various reasons. If you work from home, and your boss or a client sends you PowerPoint presentations to work on, you’ll have gone over 15GB within a week. When you share tons of pictures and home movies with friends and family, you may go over the top in a single day, perhaps. Plus, there are many times you will have to update your device’s operating system (Apple’s operating system for Mac computers accounts for around 5GB) or download other software you need for work and/or pleasure.
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But let’s stick with Mr. Welsman’s bête noire—people downloading music, movies and TV shows. In Canada, people already pay quite extensively for such convenience. Internet service providers in Canada charge relatively high rates, and many consumers pay extra for additional monthly bandwidth, if they don’t opt for an unlimited package outright. And they’re already taxed too, as ISPs add service charges and GST/HST to the prices of their internet, TV, etc. packages.
If you purchase your favourite singer’s album from iTunes Canada, you’ll be charged Canadian taxes. But if that album happens to be the data packet that puts you over the 15GB limit, you’ll be taxed again under Mr. Welsman’s proposal.
The same is true if you purchase a movie or TV show via iTunes. And under Mr. Welsman’s proposed (punitive) tax, it doesn’t matter if you purchase Canadian content or not. In fact, if you use the CBC’s own streaming app and consume hours and hours of Canadian content (such as Murdoch Mysteries or The Nature of Things) or listen to nothing but Canadian music via the CBC Music app, Mr. Welsman would tax you for that too—even though you’ve already paid for CBC programming through your regular taxes.
Finally, let’s not forget that users of Canada’s answer to Netflix, CraveTV (which is also subject to GST/HST), would be taxed too if they went over the Welsman Limit.
Essentially, what Mr. Welsman—for whom there doesn’t seem to be any difference between legal, paid for, downloads and illegal sharing—is saying is that purchasing movies, TV shows and music online is as harmful as smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol and must therefore be taxed out of existence. But since he doesn’t differentiate between different types of data traffic, or between Canadian and other content, his message to Canadians is clear: stop consuming any creative content whatsoever.
He obviously wants to create a new revenue stream for artists and creative types in Canada, but his tax would have the same effect on the consumption of (Canadian) movies and music that tobacco taxes have had on the sale of cigarettes. Just to make it clear to people with low IQs like Mr. Welsman, that means that consumption will be trending down, not up. And as everyone knows by now: the more you tax, the more tax revenue will decline and eventually dry up. “Tax the rich”, the left’s ubiquitous battle cry, has in all instances where it’s been implemented resulted in substantially reduced tax receipts.
You only tax something (like “sins” or carbon) if you want to nip something or specific behaviour in the bud. Mr. Welsman may want to drive Netflix out of Canada by making it prohibitively pricey for Canadians to keep using the service, but in the process his tax would put an end to all online consumption, including that of Canadian content.