In the decade of lobbying leading up to the reform of Canadian copyright law in 2012, copyright lobby groups had one core message: Canada needed to implement and ratify the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Internet treaties. While many education, consumer, and business groups expressed concern that the digital lock rules in the treaties would harm innovation, the industry was insistent that the treaties represented an essential component of digital copyright reform.
My op-ed for the Hill Times notes that the lobbying campaign was successful as Canada proceeded to implement and ratify the treaties. The legislation is still relatively new, but in a stunning reversal, one of the leading lobby groups now says that the drafters of the WIPO Internet Treaties were just guessing and suggests that they guessed wrong.
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In the decade of lobbying leading up to the reform of Canadian copyright law in 2012, the music industry had one core message: Canada needed to implement and ratify the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Internet treaties. While many education, consumer, and business groups expressed concern that the digital lock rules in the treaties would harm innovation, the music industry was insistent that the WIPO Internet treaties represented an essential component of digital copyright reform. The lobbying campaign was successful as Canada proceeded to implement and ratify the treaties. The legislation is still relatively new, but in a stunning reversal, the head of Music Canada now says that the drafters of the WIPO Internet Treaties were just guessing and suggests that they guessed wrong.
The intensity of the lobbying for the WIPO Internet treaties is difficult to overstate. In 2004, Billboard reported that 26 Canadian industry groups were pressuring the government to ratify the treaties. In 2006, Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (later Music Canada), wrote an op-ed in the National Post titled “Protect Artists: Reform Canada’s Copyright Laws” which argued that:
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The revolving door between government and lobby groups has long been a source of concern in the United States, where lead government IP officials have regularly jumped to lobby groups representing music, movies, and software interests and vice versa. In recent years, that has included the USTR official responsible for copyright in ACTA and the TPP moving the MPAA, the lead software industry lobbyist joining the USTR, and the general counsel of the Copyright Office joining the top international music association.
The Lobby Monitor reports that the revolving door has apparently migrated to Canada, with the former Director of Regulatory Affairs for Music Canada joining the government to play a key role in copyright policy, only to be replaced by the former Director of Parliamentary Affairs within the Prime Minister’s Office, who was the lead on the surprise copyright term extension for sound recordings passed in 2015.
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The government’s decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings to 70 years appears set to pass through the Standing Committee on Finance with practically no debate or analysis. The committee will conduct its clause-by-clause review later today and there is no reason to believe that any changes will be made to the copyright provisions. The committee has conducted extremely limited hearings with only one witness invited to discuss the copyright extension: Graham Henderson, the President of Music Canada (formerly the Canadian Recording Industry Association).
Given the previously released personal letter from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Henderson on the day of the budget confirming the copyright extension, along with the extensive lobbying on the issue by his organization, it comes as little surprise to find that Henderson was the sole witness invited to appear on the issue as the entire policy change has been driven by record industry lobbying. Yet as Henderson invoked Paul Anka – an accomplished songwriter who undoubtedly generates more revenue from his works that will remain under copyright for many more decades than from sound recordings – the committee heard only press release style comments on the benefits of the change with background documents that cited no specific studies nor hard data about the impact of the reforms.
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The government’s decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings in the budget may have taken most copyright observers by surprise, but not the music industry. I’ve posted earlier on their extensive lobbying efforts on the issue and how the extension will reduce competition, increase costs for consumers, and harm access to Canadian Heritage. The record of lobbyist meetings gives a hint of the reasons behind the extension, but a letter sent by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that I recently obtained suggests that it all it took was a letter from Music Canada President Graham Henderson to the Prime Minister.
The Harper letter was sent on April 21, 2015, the day the budget was tabled. It states:
Thank you for your recent letter regarding the copyright term for sound recordings. I have reviewed this material carefully, and share your view that the current term of copyright protection for sound recordings falls short of what is required to protect artists and ensure they are fairly compensated for their work.
Please know that, as announced today in Budget 2015, our Government will extend copyright protection for sound recordings from 50 to 70 years. The extension will be incorporated into the Budget Implementation Act, and will be in effect immediately upon passage of the legislation.
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