CRIA’s Lobby Effort: The Untold Story

On the heels of last week's posting on election financial support for Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda, the Hill Times runs a special op-ed I've written that focuses on an unreported CRIA lobby effort from earlier this year (Hill Times version, homepage version).  According to information released under the Access to Information Act, at 10:01 in the morning of February 6, 2006, at the precise moment that a new Conservative cabinet was being sworn into office at Rideau Hall, David Dyer, a senior consultant with the Capital Hill Group and a registered lobbyist for the Canadian Recording Industry Association, sent an email to Patricia Neri, the Director General of Canadian Heritage's Copyright Policy Branch. 

The email included a suggested outline for a March 2nd event focused on copyright reform.  It envisioned a meeting with the Canadian Heritage Deputy Minister Judith LaRoque, two hours of presentations from speakers sympathetic to CRIA's position, lunch with deputy ministers from Heritage, Industry, and International Trade, and a private meeting with the soon-to-named Minister of Canadian Heritage.

One month later, virtually the identical scenario played itself out in Canadian Heritage's Gatineau offices and in the private dining room of a swank nearby restaurant. In the weeks following the Dyer email, CRIA worked closely with Canadian Heritage to develop the copyright policy event.  An invitation, drafted with CRIA's assistance, was extended to seven different government departments and agencies. Dyer also warned that CRIA would be coming to Ottawa with a financial request.  The music lobby group was planning a study on the Canadian music industry and was seeking $50,000 in funding from Canadian Heritage to help support the project.

Twenty government officials, representing Canadian Heritage, Industry, International Trade, Justice, the Competition Bureau, Copyright Board of Canada, and Privy Council Office, gathered in the boardroom of Deputy Minister Judith LaRocque for a two-hour presentation that criticized prior Canadian copyright reform efforts and urged the government to adopt laws similar to those enacted in the United States.

After the formal presentations, the speakers, CRIA executives Graham Henderson and Richard Pfohl, Dyer, and Assistant Deputy Ministers from Canadian Heritage, Industry, and International Trade enjoyed lunch and drinks at Canadian Heritage's expense in a private dining room at Le Panache restaurant.  The speakers and CRIA personnel, joined by a photographer to commemorate the occasion, later returned to Canadian Heritage for a private meeting with Minister Bev Oda.

During the last federal election, former Canadian Heritage Parliamentary Secretary Sarmite Bulte found herself in the eye of a political storm after it was revealed that the leaders of several copyright lobby groups, including CRIA, were hosting a fundraiser on her behalf just four days before voters were set to go to the polls.  Given that controversy, it is astonishing to find that just days later the same lobby groups were back planning private events for government officials. 

The column concludes by noting that in recent weeks, several groups, including the Canadian Federation of Students, the newly-formed Canadian Music Creators Coalition, Appropriation Art: A Coalition of Arts Professionals, and the privacy community, have stepped forward to publicly call for a balanced approach to copyright reform that puts the interests of Canadians and Canadian artists first.  Lobbyist-backed closed door meetings and private lunches at taxpayers' expense do little to instill confidence that those calls are indeed being heard.


  1. Harper and Oda will do what’s best for
    I suspect that disclosure of this event explains a statement that came from Bev Oda’s office, soon after the new government was formed, that sounded like Heritage was continuing with the work that Bulte had started. I was a bit surprised that she would take that position so quickly.

    I also believe that the current government is not blind to the general rising opinion that restrictive DRM and assigning monopolistic power to a few corporations, while eliminating personal control over personal computers or supporting jail for kids downloading music, is not the solution to revive the old guard music industry. The music industry in Canada is growing nicely without the major labels.

    The consumers, artists, independant music companies, former RIAA leaders, foreign governments are moving closer to the current Canadian postion on copyright, rather than supporting the US style restrictive/offensive DRM model.

    Harper and Oda have good researchers and can see this trend. They may participate in the lobby efforts because they need to be able to make the statement that they’ve listened to industry, but in the end, they need to act on the overwhelming evidence presented by the majority of their citizens and by other progressive governments.

    I know that the lobbyists, and miscreants like Graham Henderson will scoff at my naivety at this statement, but the government is too young to be bought by lobbyists. I’m just not sure that “bought by lobbyists” is the label that Harper had in mind as a character of his government.

    If the government takes it’s time, listens to the public and objectively examines what other governments are doing, they will make whatever changes are required to balance the rights of artists, with the rights of every citizen. The record and entertainment companies need to find a way to justify their continued existance in that framework.

    The majors claim that if they don’t get monopolistic rights, that production of movies and music would cease. They should stop making CD’s and movies and see what happens. The smaller independants will step right into the vacum and continue to provide quality entertainment. Perhaps they will operate with smaller margins, but no doubt, there are thousands of companies prepared to take that chance. The world does not need the major entertainment companies.

  2. CRIA’s constant gardeners…
    Remarkable parallels can be drawn between the backroom schemes orchestrated by the CRIA with the Canadian federal government and the schemes of the global drug giants with the British government as portrayed in Fernando Meirelles’ movie The Constant Gardener, based on John Le Carre’s novel of the same name.

    While in the MOVIE the British high command turns a blind eye to the death of 00’s and 000’s Kenyans in the name of experimental drug trials to advance the stock price of multinational drug companies with operations in Britain… in the REALITY of the lobby-driven Heritage department, the Canadian government turns a deaf ear to the concerns of Canadian artists and creators – the very fabric of heritage, art and culture in Canada – for the purpose of satisfying corporate greed and draconian business ethics imposed by multinational entertainment companies from the US.

    The outcome? Here in Canada the it is the advancement of our domestic artistic community, their rights and freedoms, and the freedom of each of us to enjoy their works… that dies.

    As the CRIA constantly tills the soil in Ottawa, sowing their DCMA seeds, supporting US coders’ DRM efforts, and finalizes plans to send Canadian children to jail for loving music… THANKFULLY there is a rising tide of world-class originators and innovators on Canada’s landscape working diligently all around us to ‘creatively’ plant a completely new hybrid crop of artistry. Their new art fully-recognizes the present date and time in which we all live… and they are true creators on the forefront of producing new music and art in all forms, for all of us to enjoy ‘tomorrow’.

  3. If the RIAA doesn’t like it here,
    they can simply go home and take Henderson with them.

    If they want to have strong DRM, why don’t they put it onto their music? The technology exists today. They don’t do it because no one will buy the music that way, unless they force it down our throats. The only way to do that, is to remove the choices.

    That’s really what these meetings are all about, and why they are private. Its not a conversation or point of view that is good and healthy for the general public.

    I say that if they want to protect their music, they should be free to do so but they shouldn’t be able to make demands that force all music to follow their rules. Its strongly anti-competitive, and even more frustrating when you consider that they are pushing american music into Canada, while reducing the number of options for Canadian musicians to promote their talents. To do so would require the RIAA (or their little side office the CRIA of America).

  4. Copyright reform in a Minority Governmen
    After the election i was hopeful that Harpers GOvernment being a miority one would lead to more meaningful debate amongst the parties, leading to a more balanced approach to policy in all aspects of government. The passing of the budget with little debate makes me second guess that assumption. The Conservatives cannot pass any legislation reforming the current copyright without support from the other parties.

    I would be curious what the Bloc in particular would say to the CRIA, given Quebec’s entertainment industry is often ignored by the rest of north america on the whole. The Bloc Quebecois general “Quebec First” policy in general may end up benefitting all Canadians when the time comes.

  5. I’ve wanted to buy various CDs since 2003. But they had DRM. I still acquired the music, but I didn’t pay for it. If the new Frank Black (on EMI Music Canada) has DRM (his previous one did), I won’t buy the disc. But *will* acquire the music. Bottom line, if everyone did not support DRM, there wouldn’t be any.

  6. JohnInCanada says:

    You made slashdot!
    Yes indeedy, the article made it to

    But why nothing on ORC site? This needs attention!

  7. Ms
    The situation is obscene, it is wrong and it is giving the finger to a large part of the voting public.