OTTAWA - An A-to-Z of Canadian music stars, including Anne Murray, Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, and members of the Tragically Hip, called on the government Thursday to impose a levy on MP3 players. More than 350 musicians signed a letter addressed to Industry Minister Tony Clement and Heritage Minister James Moore about the government's copyright bill, C-32.

A Commons committee began studying the proposed legislation this week, and the two ministers testified before MPs on Thursday morning.

The letter urges the ministers to apply a levy to MP3 players that would later be redistributed to artists in royalties, in the same way that levies are currently applied to blank cassettes and CDs as compensation for music that is copied by Canadians.

"MP3 players are this generation's version of blank media. A copy is a copy and the principle of fair compensation for rights holders should apply whether the copy is made onto blank media or MP3 players," the artists wrote.

"...We know that you do not want to see a Canada that is devoid of musicians and songwriters, but without fair and balanced treatment, that may be the tragic consequence."

Other artists who attached their names to the letter include Stompin' Tom Connors, Tom Cochrane, Lawrence Gowan, Metric, Hedley, Sarah Harmer, Kathleen Edwards and Hawksley Workman. The letter was co-ordinated by the Canadian Private Copying Collective, the organization that takes in existing levies and hands out royalties to singers, songwriters, producers and record companies.

Last week, a group of Canadian actors lobbied MPs on Parliament Hill on the same issue on behalf of actors union ACTRA.

Clement and Moore have consistently said they are against applying a levy to MP3 players, calling it an unnecessary tax on Canadians.

Bill C-32 makes it legal for Canadians to copy music for personal use, although it has been criticized in some quarters for making it illegal for an individual to pick a digital lock imposed by rights holders to do so.

Some critics also say the legislation gives educational institutions to much freedom to reproduce and use copyrighted material.