For the past two mornings, CBC Radio's Business Network has featured an asynchronous debate between myself and CRIA's Graham Henderson. The Henderson interview [Real] includes claims that it is the failure to reform copyright law that is to blame for industry woes. Henderson adds that Canadians have a developed a culture where they won't pay for music and therefore investors won't invest in the Canadian music industry.
My interview [Real] hits on many of the points I've made in postings over the past few months:
- Digital downloads actually grew faster last year in Canada in 2006 than they did in the U.S. or Europe. While Canada starts from a smaller base, that reflects the fact that iTunes only arrived here in late 2004.
- The digital download figures fail to account for the revenues from the private copying levy. Throw in the $30 – 40 million collected last year alone and the amount that Canadians are paying for digital music becomes very significant.
- CRIA's push for copyright reform continues its ill-advised emphasis on DRM and anti-circumvention legislation. The industry is shifting away from this as consumers don't want music that won't play on their iPod or allow them to transfer between devices. Moreover, Sony rootkit-type cases cause real damage to the industry's reputation and drive fans away.
- CRIA is increasingly isolated within the Canadian market. Last year, the major Canadian indie labels left CRIA and the CMCC provided a new voice to many of Canada's best known musicians. In fact, according to documents recently obtained under the Access to Information Act, last year eleven professional organizations representing most Canadian copyright holders in the music industry, including songwriters, composers, performers, record producers, and publishers, wrote to Ministers Oda and Bernier to reject CRIA's new opposition to the private copying system and to "express their reservations concerning the legal protection of technological measures used to limit access to, or reproduction of, musical works."
CRIA's insistence on focusing on copyright as the source of its problems – along with its continual derision of Canadian policy and the motives of Canadians – is genuinely difficult to understand. Even more difficult to understand, notwithstanding the well-documented fundraising issues, is why the government keeps granting it unparalleled access.
I've already reported about how CRIA was busy arranging an event for government officials within days of the election which led to a sponsored lobby session on March 2nd that included a government-funded lunch and a private meeting with Minister Oda. Now new documents reveal that this was merely the tip of the iceberg. Four weeks later (on April 1st), CRIA hosted a private lunch at the Juno Awards for Bev Oda featuring Henderson and the presidents of the major music labels followed by an artist roundtable. Six weeks after that (on May 16th), Graham Henderson was granted another meeting with Bev Oda, this time to counter the news that the indie labels had left CRIA and that the CMCC had launched.
This represents an incredible amount of access, particularly considering the unwillingness of the Minister or her staff to even meet with groups representing Canadian artists. With literally monthly private meetings this spring between the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the President of the Canadian Recording Industry Association is it any wonder that Canadians are skeptical about whether their interests will be addressed in the next copyright bill?