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Senator calls for tax on blank CDs

Sunday, March 02, 2014    

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GOVERNMENT Senator Sophia Frazer-Binns is recommending that a levy be placed on all blank CDs and DVDs, as part of measures to improve the creative industries.

"This levy would not go to the Consolidated Fund, but used for the purpose of enhancing the creative industries," Frazer-Binns said.

The senator was making her contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate on Friday.

She noted that similar measures have been implemented in the United States, Switzerland, Australia and Canada.

Frazer-Binns said that in Canada, the tax goes into a special fund managed by the Copyright Board of Canada, which also has the task of collecting and distributing the funds.

"If one uses the conservative figure of 450,000 (the total number of CDs seized by the police in 2010) and attaches a levy of $50 on each medium, the Government can collect a sum of $22.5 million on blank media," Senator Frazer-Binns said.

She added that money could also be obtained from funding bodies, such as the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund to supplement this fund.

"This fund would operate in such a way that all monies received would go to a proposed special (sum) for development, called the 'Creative Industries Enhancement Fund'. It would provide funding for projects and programmes which impact the growth and development of the industry," Senator Frazer-Binns said.

She suggested that the money earned from the levy could be used to fund development workshops and seminars, and to train persons and rights holders to take advantage of the global creative industry.

The senator also proposed that some of the money could be lent at low interest to individuals or groups involved in the sector, as well as to set up craft and artiste villages and studios at the local level.

"Further, from the fund, a special welfare or contributory pension scheme could be developed, so players in the creative sector would feel comfortable that in their older years there is a security blanket on which they can rely, thereby resulting in less reliance on the State," she said.

Additionally, it is being recommended that a percentage of the money could go to agencies, such as the Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers or the Jamaica Music Society to be shared among members on a predetermined basis, as a means of compensating the rights holders for loss of earnings (royalties) due to piracy.

"Because the money would be distributed to registered rights holders, it would serve as an incentive for creators to register their work, thereby collecting royalties from the exploitation of their works globally. Finally, as the funds would be distributed through collecting societies, it would serve to increase the membership of said societies," Senator Frazer-Binns argued.

Approximately $2.7 million worth of illegally copied CDs and DVDs were destroyed in 2013, as part of efforts by the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) and the Organised Crime Investigation Division (OCID) to combat piracy in Jamaica.

Globally, the creative sector is estimated to account for more than seven per cent of the world's gross domestic product, and is forecast to grow at a rate of 10 per cent annually.

In 2012/2013 the local sector generated $267 million in local expenditure, with a further $1.2 billion in capital expenditure, and employing over 5,000 persons.

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