The government’s unexpected budget decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings came as a surprise to most copyright watchers, but not the music industry lobby. Music Canada (formerly the Canadian Recording Industry Association) was ready within minutes with a press release, backgrounder, and quotes from musicians that were previously critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. How did the industry seemingly know this was coming?
The monthly lobbyist communications reports tell the story as beginning last fall, Music Canada registered lobbyist David Dyer met almost monthly with Patrick Rogers, the Director of Policy for Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover. The meetings began in November at roughly the same time as Universal Music began expressing concern about the Canadian distribution of public domain Beatles records. The lobbyist registry lists meetings on November 10, November 26, December 5, February 17, and March 18. In addition, there was a meeting with James Maunder, Chief of Staff to Industry Minister James Moore on November 28th, though it is clear that Canadian Heritage had the lead on the issue.
Near monthly access to Rogers paid off with promise to extend the term of copyright despite the absence of public consultation on the issue, increased consumer costs, and reduced choice. By comparison, Europe spent years of study and intense debate over whether to extend the term of copyright, with numerous experts reports warning against it and many European countries opposing the measure. Rogers was apparently an excellent internal advocate, particularly given his experience with the Prime Minister’s Office. Rogers is the former Manager of Parliamentary Affairs with the Prime Minister’s Office. If the name is familiar, it may be because he is named in the RCMP allegations against Senator Mike Duffy. Indeed, the RCMP evidence indicates that he was involved in meetings and emails related to the Duffy affair and recent reports indicate that he may be called to testify at the Duffy trial.
I asked Canadian Heritage officials to comment on the nature of the discussions between Music Canada lobbyists and ministry officials. Their response simply stated “It is not our practice to comment on the content of meetings with stakeholders.” In this case, there is no need. The outcome says it all.