Number-crunching for ethical copying

Right now I’m faced with a problem: my budget is incredibly tight, I’m bored of all the music I own, and I’m a stickler for copyright ethics.

On the bright side, I live in Canada.  This means that the filthy major record labels already have more of my money than I gave them for music purchases, due to the blank recording media levy.  I’ve bought a few stacks of blank CD-Rs over the past few years that I’ve used for data, not music, but I’ve still paid the 21 cents per disc.

So how do I translate that to mp3 downloads?

Arguably, I could say that the levy is in support of personal copying, and then go on and leech as many mp3s as I want.  Legally, this is a possible defense but it hasn’t been tested in court as far as I know.  Ethically, I don’t know that I want to go there.

I don’t have a solution, but my gut feeling is that it should be arguable for me to download a small number of mainstream albums based on levy fees that have gone to their record labels already.  (Fees are distributed based on commercial radio airplay, which means indie labels and artists don’t see much of this money.)

This is pretty tempting to turn into a numeracy lesson.  The math is there, it doesn’t require any difficult techniques, and there isn’t one clear right answer.  I could hand them data on levy amounts, on average CD costs in physical and digital stores, and maybe to stir things up include data on the breakdown of how much money from each CD sale goes to various parties (distribution, publisher, artist, marketing, etc).

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