Amend Copyright Bill, Music Industries Urge MPs

First Posted: 02/28/2012 3:50 pm Updated: 04/29/2012 5:12 am

Witnesses representing musicians, record labels and a small radio company asked MPs to amend the government's copyright reform bill when they appeared on Tuesday before a committee studying C-11.

The Canadian Federation of Musicians, Re:Sound Music Licencing Company and an Ontario radio company called Pineridge Broadcasting told the special legislative committee they support the government's efforts to modernize Canada's copyright law, but that the bill still needs some work.

Bill Skolnik, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Musicians, said its members are self-employed business owners who often earn less than $20,000 a year and that earning income depends on Canada having robust copyright laws and royalty rules.

"Just because digital technology has made it easy for works to be reproduced it doesn't mean that it should be free," he said. "Technological advances cannot be a rationale for diminishing or depriving creators and performers of their rights to be rewarded for reproducing and using their work. Music has value. Unfortunately, in too many places this bill removes the value."

Skolnik said the CFM takes issue with a number of provisions in C-11, including a proposal to reduce the penalties for those who break copyright laws for non-commercial purposes.

He said there haven't been cases where Canadians have had to pay exorbitant fines for infringing on copyright and there is no need to drop the fines, adding that it shouldn't matter whether the law was broken for commercial purposes or not.

"Such a distinction conveys the wrong message," he said.

Re:Sound, a non-profit organization that collects and distributes royalties for performers and record labels, has been lobbying the government to hear its case and recently sent letters to MPs asking them to support their proposed amendments.

The association argues that radio stations currently get a subsidy from the government because the royalty scheme, which is tied to advertising revenue, currently mandates that only $100 has to be paid to Re:Sound on the first $1.25 million in revenue.

The group says this exemption amounts to an estimated $8 million in lost revenue for musicians and record labels annually and that radio stations should be forced to pay more.

Ian MacKay, president of Re:Sound, said a handful of large, profitable radio companies are benefiting from the rules and that artists and record labels aren't getting fairly compensated.

'Serious market distortion'

"This is a serious market distortion that benefits a very profitable industry at the expense of those who create the content that drive that industry," he said.

A radio station president, Don Conway, said lifting the $100 exemption would "significantly impact" his business and that small companies like his are already under tremendous financial pressure.

"If I can't hire someone else, I can't grow my revenues. If I can't grow my revenues I can't pay the artist any more," he said when asked about the royalty rate.

Conway said his company, Pineridge Broadcasting, a private company operating in eastern Ontario, is being held back from expanding and from being good corporate citizens because of increasing tariff rates.

"We believe in supporting the artists who make the songs that allow us to put a product on the street, but we believe in fair play. And I don't think being forced to pay multiple times for the same thing is fair," he said.

The committee also heard from representatives from the education sector at Tuesday's meeting. They also expressed general support for C-11 but want to see some amendments made.

A provision in the bill that would require students and teachers in online education to destroy notes with copyright-protected material within 30 days of the course finishing is stirring strong reaction.

"This amendment is unreasonable and impractical," said Cynthia Andrew with the Canadian School Boards Association. "It does not reflect current practices in online learning, where teachers reuse their course materials each year that they teach the same course."

The committee will hear from more groups representing musicians and artists on Wednesday.

Related on HuffPost:

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  • Digital Locks

    The Copyright Modernization Act, Bill C-11, will allow Canadians to copy content from one device to another, such as from a CD to a computer or an iPod. This provision, however, does not apply to content protected by a digital lock, which is any technological measure, such as encryption or digital signatures, that rights holders use to restrict access to or prevent the copying or playing of CDs, DVDs, e-books, digital files and other material. (Ryan Anson/AFP/Getty Images) <em>Slides use files from CBC</em>

  • Non-Commercial Recording

    The act will allow Canadians to record television, radio and internet broadcasts and listen to or view them later on whatever device they choose but not for the purposes of building up a library or for commercial use. This provision does not extend to content that is offered "on-demand" (streamed video, for example) or protected by a digital lock.

  • Backups

    The act will allow Canadians to make a backup copy of content to protect against loss or damage -- again unless that content is protected by a digital lock or offered as an on-demand service.

  • Mash-Ups

    The act will allow Canadians to incorporate legally acquired copyrighted content into their own user-generated work, as long as it's not for commercial gain and does not negatively impact the markets for the original material or the artist's reputation. An example would be the posting of your own mash-up of a Lady Gaga song and, say, a Beyoncé number on YouTube. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Clear Channel)

  • Education

    The act will allow Canadians to use copyrighted content for the purposes of education, satire or parody. This expands what is known as the fair dealing provisions of the existing law -- which until now covered only research, private study, criticism and news reporting. (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Book Burning?

    The act will allow Canadians to copy copyrighted material that is part of an online or distance learning course in order to listen to or view it at a later time. Under this provision, teachers can provide digital copies of copyrighted material to students as part of the course but only if they and the students destroy the course material within 30 days of the end of the course. Teachers are also expected to take reasonable measures to prevent the copying and distribution of the material other than for the purposes of the course. Critics have referred to this part of the Act as the "book burning" provisions. (Flickr: pcorreia)

  • Librarians

    The act will allow librarians to digitize print material and send a copy electronically to users, who can view the material on a computer or print one copy. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

  • Disabled People

    The act will allow consumers who are disabled to adapt copyrighted material to a format they can more easily use. (Pierre-Henry DESHAYES/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Banned Tech

    The act will prohibit the manufacture, importation and sale of technologies, devices and services designed primarily for the purpose of breaking digital locks. This includes technology designed to allow you to play foreign-bought DVDs on your North American player, for example.

  • Breaking Locks

    The act will prohibit the circumventing of digital locks, even for legal purposes -- such as the education or satire uses protected by other sections of the Act. This is one of the most controversial parts of the legislation. Many experts have criticized the government for not including an exemption that would allow for the bypassing of digital locks for legitimate purposes, such as the copying of parts of digitally locked textbooks to view on another device or for use in an assignment.

  • Piracy

    The act will require internet service providers to notify their customers that they are violating the copyright law if a copyright holder informs the ISP of possible piracy. The ISP is required to retain "relevant information" about the user such as their identity, and that information could potentially be released to the copyright holder with a court order.

  • ISP Liability

    The act will exempt ISPs and search engines from liability for the copyright violations of their users if they are acting strictly as intermediaries in the hosting, caching or communication of copyrighted content.

  • Sharing Sites

    The act will prohibit a person to provide a service over the internet or another digital network that the person "knows or should have known is designed primarily to enable acts of copyright infringement." This clause is targeted at websites created for the purpose of distributing copyrighted content, such as the many popular peer-to-peer file-sharing sites used to swap video and audio, and is meant to "make liability for enabling of infringement clear."

  • Commercial vs. Personal

    The act will differentiate between a commercial violation of copyright law and an individual violation. Individuals found violating the law could be liable for penalties between $100 and $5,000, which is below the current $20,000 maximum.


Filed by Michael Bolen  |