Dave Gunning's planned paean to the penny.The Royal Canadian Mint is pinching
The Halifax folk singer's upcoming album, No More Pennies, includes a tribute to the lowly copper currency (well, copper-plated anyway), which is gradually going out of circulation after production ended last May.
No problem there, but the Royal Canadian Mint is demanding Gunning pay for the right to use a picture of the penny on the album cover. It's a copyright thing, apparently.
The mint wants to charge Gunning $1,200 for every 2,000 copies of the album he produces, which seems a bit steep to me, given that Gunning is not exactly Justin Bieber.
"The Mint has an Intellectual Property Policy in place to protect its IP (intellectual property) assets, which includes coin images, and ensure their appropriate use," the mint told CBC News in a statement.
"In instances where an approved use is being made for commercial gain (as would be the case with an ad campaign or selling music CDs), royalty fees are applied."
[ Related: Here's what you can do with your spare pennies ]
The mint has generously agreed to waive the fee for the first 2,000 albums, scheduled for release Sept. 18, but insists on its piece of the action for any more copies.
So Gunning has launched a penny drive, asking fans to bring pennies to his upcoming shows so he can finance the album's release.
It turns out Gunning's predicament started with a fan's good intentions that went wrong.
"All summer, I've been mentioning the upcoming release of No More Pennies at my shows," Gunning told the Pictou County News.
"Recently I was approached by a fan that works for the Royal Canadian Mint. He thought that it might support the project and sell copies in its Ottawa gift shop. He pitched his idea to co-workers and soon contacted me, feeling terrible as I was soon to be in breach of copyright by using the image of our Canadian penny."
With the album already in production and headed for release this month, Gunning said he quickly contacted the mint, hoping to get an endorsement and support. The mint offered none but agreed to not to stop the first run of CDs. They would, however, still be demanding what's known as a 'mechanical rights fee.'
"The mechanical rate was quite high so I didn't know if I would be able to produce another run of units in the future," said Gunning. "That's when we decided to do a penny drive and collect $1,200 worth of pennies to cover the initial cost."
After the mint learned of the penny drive, it waived the initial fee but remained firm on future fees, the News reported.
Gunning said besides raising money for the album, he'll also donate $1,200 to the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax.
The singer is apparently not trying to exploit the endangered coin with his album cover.
"Over the years, my writing has mostly been in support of the underdogs of the world and working-class folks," said Gunning. "The image on the front cover of the CD is of a person sitting at a lunch counter trying to scrape up enough change to pay for his cup of coffee."
The album includes other penny-themed images, including the penny as a setting sun and pennies as locomotive wheels.
The imagery was created by Juno award-winning artist Michael Wrycraft, who has done CD packages for musicians such as Stompin' Tom Connors, Gordon Lightfoot and Bruce Cockburn.
Gunning won two East Coast Music Awards last year for his last album, A Tribute to John Allan Cameron.
(Photo courtesy CBC)