Let’s take a balanced approach to Copyright Reform

Michael Geist, one of Canada’s people-in-the-know when it comes to Canadian copyright (among other things), has written an excellent post about some upcoming calls to action regarding copyright reform. I’ve posted a few highlights below, but I strongly encourage you to check out the whole post.

CRIA Launching Grassroots Campaign for Canadian DMCA
Thursday April 09, 2009
by Michael Geist

As the Canadian government considers its next move on copyright reform, it would appear that the Canadian Recording Industry Association is readying a grassroots campaign to argue for a repeat of Bill C-61.  The following leaked email was widely distributed from an executive at one of the major record labels:

“I’m sure that all of you are aware of the current challenges that we have within our industry around copyright infringement. What you may not know is that there is a lack of support within our government for laws that are currently in place NOT protecting copyright work. Virtually every other developed nation in the world has taken one key step to keep peer to peer downloading under control: they have modernized their copyright rules for the digital age. It is time Canada’s Parliament implement similar, long overdue reforms, in keeping with our country’s commitments under the 1996 WIPO Internet Treaties.

You can make a difference by understanding the current challenging situation, talking to your colleagues about it, and letting your MP know how you feel about this. Below and attached is a Frequently Asked Question form that can bring you up to speed on the issues and other info that you may not be aware of. Take a minute to review, and then please follow up by sending an email to your MP if you feel that music and these matters are important to you.  In addition to the email message, or as an alternative, please write a letter or call your MP and the Heritage and Industry Ministers.”

The letter then lists the addresses for Industry Minister Tony Clement and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore along with links to a series of supportive organizations and a non-functioning link to a Copyright FAQ that is currently hosted at Universal Music (but indicating that the source is CRIA).

While the industry may face some challenges in generating a major grassroots campaign demanding a Canadian DMCA, more important is their planned Copyright FAQ which unsurprisingly tells only one side of the story.  There are no questions about the robust copyright collective system in Canada, private copying, the Songwriters proposal, the CMCC, the effectiveness of notice-and-notice to address online infringement, etc.  Instead, the FAQ states [with commentary in brackets from me]:

Copyright Reform FAQ

“Q: What is Copyright?
A: Copyright is the right held by the creator of a literary work, musical work, artistic work or software to decide how that work should be reproduced and made available to the public. It is the foundation upon which the copyright industries – and the jobs they support – is built.”

[according to the Supreme Court of Canada, it is also a law that seeks to strike a balance between creators rights and users rights.  The effects of copyright extend well beyond just the “copyright industries.”]

<snip>

“Q:  Does copyright piracy put your job at risk?
A: Yes. Canadians who work in the copyright-related industries have seen numerous job losses – from the artists who create music to truck drivers who deliver CDs and DVDs to retailers. Since the advent of widespread P2P file sharing 10 years ago, retail sales of music have declined by more than half; this has forced ongoing job reductions and slashed funds available for Canadian artist development.

It is not only the music industry that is affected. For example, a Business Software Alliance study found that a reduction of software piracy in Canada by 10% over the next four years could generate more than 5,200 high-skilled jobs and inject $2.7 billion into the economy.

[Loss of jobs for truck drivers who deliver CDs and DVDs is about a move to digital distribution, not infringement.  Further, there is plenty of debate over the sources of declining CD sales, including an Industry Canada funded study that found a positive correlation between file sharing and music purchasing.]

<snip>

“Q: What was Bill C-61?
A: Bill C-61 was copyright reform legislation introduced in Parliament last year. It set out to modernize Canada’s Copyright Act to accommodate today’s digital technologies, and to address the widespread piracy of copyrighted works. The bill, which died on the Order Paper when an election was called, would have brought Canada’s copyright rules closer in line with those of other developed nations. Its passage would have signaled to Canadians that Internet piracy is unacceptable under law.”

[Bill C-61 also would have created enormous problems for consumers, educators, librarians, researchers, artists, and millions of Canadians who would suffer a loss of rights over their personal property and restrictions on their ability to create and interact with digital media.]

<snip>

“Q: Do artists support copyright reforms?
A: Yes. ACTRA and AFM Canada, leading organizations that represent tens of thousands of Canadian artists, fully support copyright reform. Their support is based on the best interests of their members. To see what some artists have to say, click here.”

[But many artists do not.  The Canadian Music Creators Coalition, which includes some of Canada’s best known musicians, argue against these reforms.  Moreover, the Songwriters Association of Canada has argued for a different approach on P2P and acknowledged that reforms based on protecting DRM are bound to fail.]

<snip>

“Q:   What can I do to help?
A: Contact your Member of Parliament to let them know that you think copyright is important and to ask that they prioritize the passage of appropriate copyright reform legislation. It will take you no more than a minute or two to send an email to your MP, and just a few more minutes to write a letter. Ask family, friends and colleagues to do the same.”

[We agree on this.  My 30 Things You Can Do remains relevant (albeit a bit outdated for contact information) – Canadians should contact their MPs and urge them to ensure that any new reforms strike the right balance.]

(Links updated November 2013)

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