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Home » Officer Columns » Copyright Reform: Why Bother?

Copyright Reform: Why Bother?

  -  AFM Vice President from Canada

Pour la version française cliquez ici.

On May 29, I appeared before the Heritage Committee and, on June 5, before the Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology, all part of the statutory review of Canada’s Copyright Act. Why is this important, and how does it affect you, our members?

Part of the process, along with an appearance before committee, involves written submissions, along with recommendations for change. Our first recommendation is to amend the definition of sound recording within the act. Right now, when your recordings are used in a TV or movie soundtrack, you are able to collect a fee for synchronization. As an AFM member who did the work under our agreements, you would also be eligible for new use payments. However, there is currently no statutory right that protects audiovisual recordings. If Canada were to ratify and enact the terms of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Beijing Treaty, such protection would exist and a tariff set to pay musicians for such use. This is something very much worth fighting for.

Our second recommendation involves the removal of the $1.25 million royalty exemptions for commercial broadcasters. This was originally intended to be an exemption for “mom and pop” radio stations (including college radio) that generated less than the aforementioned amount in advertising revenue. Instead, when enacted, it exempted the first $1.25 million in revenue from all stations. This is an unnecessary exception that would add millions of dollars worth of royalties for recording artists.

Our third recommendation involves expansion of the private copying regime to include new technology. Originally a levy on cassettes and CDs, revenue has dropped significantly over the years because, clearly, the preferred method of music storage is micro SD cards, hard drives, cellphones, and the cloud. The law must catch up to the technology, in order to properly compensate musicians for their lost revenue due to file sharing.

Our fourth recommendation comes in the form of reducing piracy in the digital world, which includes higher levels of responsibility on Internet providers, such as a requirement for notice and takedown of known copyright infringers.

Fifth, is a push to find ways to maintain Canadian content quotas, starting with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recognizing the Internet as a broadcast medium and regulating it the same as radio and television. How many world-class Canadian bands would not have had their start without the mandatory support of Canadian radio? While the web has enabled artists to reach the world with their music, the reverse is also true. Without mandatory quotas for streaming, our players may be lost in the colossal torrent of content.

Our sixth recommendation is a reform of the Copyright Board itself, and covered under a separate submission. Suffice to say, items before the board sometimes take years, which is expensive and totally unnecessary. Flawed decisions are also problematic, such as the unfortunate and underachieving Tariff 8 on streaming. Because the board imposed an old, existing rate on a new tariff, musicians in Canada see 10% of what their counterparts in the US and other countries receive in streaming revenues. In fact, our artists must generate 100 million streams in order to see $10,000, which is ridiculous.

So why bother? If the CFM and the other witnesses called before the copyright review committees are successful, these meaningful changes to Canada’s Copyright Act would result in significantly more income through our collective management organizations, such as the Musicians Rights Organization of Canada (MROC). While such a change requires an act of parliament through a copyright amendment or omnibus bill, this would be important legislation for all musicians.

What we are doing now is what we have always done. The CFM was heavily involved with Phase Two of the Copyright Act in 1997, which brought us Neighbouring Rights. The CFM was an integral part of achieving Federal Status of the Artist legislation. This is all possible because of you, and your incredibly important membership in the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada.

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