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Girl in Front of Beatles Mural by James Jardine (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dbQUCt

Lobbying & Licensing: Behind the Recording Industry’s Campaign to Squeeze Out New Competitors

My recent posts on the government’s surprise budget announcement that it plans to extend the term of copyright protection for sound recordings generated considerable private feedback, with several industry sources suggesting that the change is not quite what it seems. In fact, despite painting the reform as an effort to protect the rights of artists, foreign record companies have been primarily concerned with eliminating new competitors who offer cheaper, legal public domain recordings of popular artists such as the Beatles, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones.

From a consumer perspective, there is little doubt that the change will lead to higher prices for music. Multiple studies on copyright term extension for sound recordings have concluded that public domain recordings encourage competition between release companies and drive down the price for consumers. The songwriters are paid either way, but the consumers win with more choice and lower priced music.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that while some artists have lent support to the government’s proposed changes, the bigger story is what has been happening behind the scenes. As new public domain-based recordings began to appear at major Canadian retailers, foreign record labels adopted a two-pronged strategy: intense lobbying for legislative changes to lock down recordings for decades and blocking royalty payments to copyright owners to keep the new competitors out of the market.

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May 5, 2015 0 comments Columns
Spam wall by freezelight (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/eKfYX

Study Reports Big Drop in Spam Following Canadian Anti-Spam Law Implementation

The launch of Canada’s anti-spam law generated considerable criticism suggesting that the law was unenforceable and would not have a discernible impact on spam. Recent enforcement actions by the CRTC and the Competition Bureau, which led to millions on fines, demonstrates that the law can be used to target businesses that run afoul of the law. Now a new study from Cloudmark, a network security firm, concludes that there was a significant drop in spam originating from Canada once the law took effect. Moreover, Canadians received considerably less email after CASL was implemented. Cloudmark states:

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April 30, 2015 14 comments News
Local governments gather in Whistler for this year’s UBCM convention by Province of British Columbia (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/ppp6Jc

Canadian Government on Copyright Notice Flood: “It’s Not a Notice-and-Settlement Regime”

The flood of copyright notices in Canada continues to attract attention and generate concern among many Canadians. I’ve posted several pieces on the issue, including a recent post on what recipients should consider if they receive a notice. I still receive daily emails from notice recipients, with some admitting that they quickly paid the settlement in a panic and now fear that they may have opened the door to even more settlement demands. In response to this copyright abuse, I was pleased to participate in an open letter signed by many groups calling on the government to fix the loopholes in the notice-and-notice system by prohibiting the inclusion of settlement demands within the copyright notices.

A recent Metro article suggests that the government is well aware that the system is being misused. Industry Minister James Moore’s press secretary Jake Enwright emphasizes that “there is no obligation for Canadians to pay these settlements” and that the current system is “not a notice-and-settlement regime.” Those are encouraging words that come as close as the government can to tell consumers that it does not believe that settlements should be included in the notices and to hint that it does not expect Canadians to pay.

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April 29, 2015 10 comments News
The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages Visits the Canadian Film Centre by Canadian Film Centre (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/oVePVb

The Power of Backroom Lobbying: How the Recording Industry Got Their Copyright Term Extension

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.

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April 28, 2015 30 comments News
amoeba records by Chris Frewin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/5HrsCM

Competition Killer: Why the Copyright Term Extension For Sound Recordings Will Limit Consumer Choice and Increase Costs

As the negative coverage of the government’s surprise decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings and performances mounts (Billboard, National Post), it is worth remembering that it is Canadian consumers that will bear the costs with decreased choice and increased prices. I touch on this in my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version), but a more detailed discussion is warranted (see here, here, and here for previous posts on the proposed extension).

The question of competition and consumer costs was addressed in several leading European reports on intellectual property and term extension. The University of Cambridge’s Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law reviewed the economic evidence related to term extension for sound recordings, stating:

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April 27, 2015 8 comments Columns