The Canadian Mint will no longer be making pennies after this year, but in the very near future they will be handed more pennies than they know what to do with.
Folk singer/songwriter Dave Gunning is on a mission to make a statement after he was informed by the Canadian Mint that he will have to pay the Mint royalties for the use of the penny on his new album cover.
Gunning was preparing to release his new album, ‘No More Pennies’ September 18 when he was contacted by a fan with some bad news.
“All summer, I’ve been mentioning the upcoming release ‘No More Pennies’ at my shows,” said Gunning. “Recently, I was approached by a fan that works for the Royal Canadian Mint. He thought that they might support the project and sell copies in their 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.”
The name for the album came one day when Gunning dropped eight pennies on the floor and could only find seven, the eighth later revealing itself in his boot.
“The name just came to me,” he says. “I thought it was a nice way to pay tribute to the penny as well as represent nostalgia and the passing of time.”
Gunning contacted the Mint as soon as he heard about the infringement and says, “The woman in charge forwarded me an application and told me that my case would be discussed at a meeting. She ensured me that the Mint didn’t want me to incur any financial loss. She then phoned me to let me know that the Mint was going to make an exception allowing us to sell the initial run of units but that we would be required to pay a mechanical rights fee for every CD produced. 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.”
There were already 2,000 copies of the album in production.
The Mint offered to waive the $1,200 fee, but by then it was too late.
“I want to continue printing my album cover,” he says. “I’m not happy with this. They told me they were trying to protect their intellectual property, but it’s not fair that their fee is more than the cost to produce the album. Why charge more for a picture of the penny than the cost to record the album? I wasn’t trying to use the penny as a way to sell albums, it was just meant as a way of showing the passing of time.”
That’s when Gunning came up with the idea for a penny drive. Gunning is going to collect the $1,200 in pennies and deliver it to the Mint. In return for the pennies from his fans, he will be donating $1,200 to the IWK Children’s Hospital in Halifax and any remaining money collected through the penny drive will go to other charities.
“I’m going to pay it forward,” he says. “I don’t want to keep the revenue. I’m not getting people to pay my bill; it’s just a statement to Ottawa for the underdogs everywhere.”
ScotiaBank is on board to roll all of the pennies for Gunning and various local business and organizations, including The Advocate.
“Over the years, my writing has mostly been in support of the underdogs of the world and working-class folks,” says 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. We’ve created sentimental images as a way of saying goodbye to Canada’s penny. On the back cover is a sunset with the sun as a penny setting below the horizon. On the inside of the package is a lithograph image of an old steam train, which is another important part of our vanishing Canadian heritage. The wheels of the train are little pennies.”
He says he’s not sure what the next step is in terms of continuing to print the album, adding he may end up making some changes.
“I am willing to co-operate,” he says. “I have already made three changes to the album cover and sent them to the Mint but I haven’t heard back; they are holding us up. What’s funny is that on the back of the Canadian $20 bill, it says ‘Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts’ and now they are attacking artists.”
Gunning says generally he is very proud to be a Canadian, however, this ordeal has been quite embarrassing.
He will be performing from his new album at the deCoste Centre October 4.
Drop in to the office of The Advocate, 21 George Street, Pictou, to drop a fistful of pennies into a jar which, when filled, will be given to Gunning.