Canadian artist Bryan Adams placed copyright in the spotlight on Tuesday, appearing before the Canadian Heritage committee to make his case for copyright reform. Adams attracted widespread media coverage, though the big music industry groups such as Music Canada were conspicuously silent with not even a tweet to mark the appearance. Why the cold shoulder from the Canadian music industry to one of Canada’s best known artists? The obvious answer is that Adams sang from a far different songbook than the industry lobby groups. While those groups have been pushing for copyright term extension and a so-called “value gap” that bears little reality to Canadian law, Adams expressed artist frustration with the industry and one-sided contracts, noting that “I don’t even want to start naming the names of people who have had their copyright whisked from underneath their feet from contracts that they’ve signed as youngsters.”
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Cuts Like a Knife: Bryan Adams Calls for Stronger Protections Against One-Sided Record Label Contracts
Netflix is enormously popular in Canada with millions using the online video service. While the Canadian version of Netflix has improved the scope of available titles since it launched, there are still differences with the U.S. service, leading some subscribers to use virtual private networks to mask their address and access U.S. Netflix. Are those subscribers “stealing” something? The Globe and Mail’s Simon Houpt apparently thinks so.
This weekend he wrote a column titled Even the Content Creators are Stealing Content, which focused on content creators who unapologetically download television shows or use virtual private networks to access U.S. Netflix from Canada. Accessing the U.S. Netflix service is common in many countries including Canada (see stories on Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.). Houpt argues that accessing the U.S. Netflix from Canada deprives creators of their fair share of earnings and make the creation of future shows less likely:
Paying for the Canadian service means your money goes to whoever holds the Canadian rights for the shows on Netflix. If you’re watching the U.S. service, the rights holders – that is, those who pay the creators to make the shows you’re actually watching – aren’t getting their fair share. That means they’re less likely to help get the next round of shows or movies green-lighted, making it harder for artists to get their projects off the ground.
Yet while the legal issues associated with accessing U.S. Netflix may be in a legal grey zone, the argument that creators are not paid seems wrong.
Steve Proulx (via Fagstein and Creators' Copyright) points to Quebecor's new agreement for magazine freelancers that not only demands exclusive rights, but retroactive rights to any previously submitted work. It is worth repeating that it is contract, not copyright law, that frequently presents the bigger problem for creators.
Today's C-61 reform is particularly timely given yesterday's decision by Industry Minister Jim Prentice to demand that Bell and Telus account for their plans to charge for the receipt of text messages, a decision that Prentice described as "poorly thought-out." In the case of text message charges, the companies will presumably argue that their consumer contracts give them the right to alter charges and that this change is consistent with those rights. Prentice may rightly note the inequity of locking in a consumer for three years, yet reserving the right to fundamentally alter the costs borne by the consumer midway through the agreement. In other words, the contract may say one thing, but consumer rights and fairness dictate something else.
While that may be Prentice's perspective on consumer telecom contracts, he adopts a much different approach in Bill C-61.