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Record industry welcomes proposed reforms to Canadian copyright law

By | Published on Friday 17 May 2019


The Canadian record industry has welcomed a report published by the country’s parliament that proposes a stack of reforms to Canada’s Copyright Act. Trade group Music Canada says that the new report – published by the parliament’s Standing Committee On Canadian Heritage – includes “important and timely recommendations to address the growing value gap in Canada’s creative industries”. Yep, it’s time for some more ‘value gap’ shouting!

Among the document’s 22 recommendations are calls for improved copyright education; new efforts to ensure online services better develop and promote Canadian content; the removal of a statutory measure that significantly reduces the royalty obligations of radio stations; and a review of copyright exceptions, with the aim of reducing the number of scenarios in which copyright works can be used without licence.

On top of that, there was one more recommendation familiar to anyone working in the music industry. That being that “the government of Canada review the safe harbour exceptions and laws to ensure that internet service providers are accountable for their role in the distribution of content”. The current safe harbour reforms in Europe will likely be held up as a template for how those safe harbour exceptions might be revamped in Canada.

Meanwhile, for those on the songs side of the music business, another favoured recommendation will be that relating to the copyright term of literary and musical works. The report states that “the government of Canada [should] pursue its [past] commitment to implement the extension of copyright from 50 to 70 years after the author’s death”. That change – long lobbied for by songwriters and music publishers in the country – would bring Canada’s copyright terms in line with Europe and the US.

“I applaud the members of the committee for listening to the voices of artists and the businesses who support music and for taking these critical first steps toward addressing the value gap in Canada”, Music Canada chief Graham Henderson said yesterday. “The committee’s report provides a series of thoughtful and concrete recommendations to address the underlying causes of the value gap. Many of the recommendations will significantly and immediately improve the lives of artists and our industry”.

The report was also welcomed by musician Miranda Mulholland, who has been busy ensuring that artist voices have been heard during the committee’s review. “The changes recommended by the Heritage Committee in this report are the first step in ensuring artists receive fair remuneration for their work”, she said yesterday. “The changes would end the unfair subsidies that artists have been paying large broadcasting corporations, and mean more creators can earn a sustainable living from their music. I thank the members of the Committee for hearing the concerns of artists, and making strong recommendations to close the value gap in Canada”.

Needless to say, not everyone is supporting the new report, the recommendations of which do a lot more for the creators and owners of copyright than the users of copyright works. Canadian academic Michael Geist, a frequent critic of any efforts to boost copyright protections, said that the document was “the most one-sided Canadian copyright report issued in the past fifteen years”, comparing it to a similar 2004 review that he said was “discredited” and “subsequently rejected by the government”.

Criticising the committee’s process and recommendations, Geist wrote yesterday: “Representing little more than stenography of lobbying positions from Canadian cultural groups, the report simply adopts as recommendations a wide range of contentious proposals: copyright term extension, restricted fair dealing, increased damages, as well as several new rights and payments. There is no attempt to engage with a broad range of stakeholders, much less grapple with contrary evidence or positions”.

It remains to be seen whether the report now results in any actual reforming of Canada’s copyright regime, though if it does, we can expect plenty more lively debate before any changes to the law actually occur.