Coldplay and Copyright

I spent nearly three hours this morning doing a CBC syndication wheel. For those that are not familiar with this, you sit in a room and CBC radio stations from across the country take turns calling you for six minute interviews all of which feature the same opening but often veer off in different directions.

I started in Sudbury, shifted east to Halifax and 13 stations later had worked my way across the country to Victoria.

The discussion this morning focused on copyright and the music industry with a particular focus on the release of the new Coldplay CD, which contains copy protection and apparently cannot be transferred to your iPod.

I argued that this copy protection is a problem (and it will become an even bigger problem if Bill C-60 becomes law) given that Canadians pay for the right to private copy and that many no doubt purchase the CD with the expectation that they can make a backup copy or listen to it on their iPod. While the CD may include a warning that it contains copy protection, most people don't know what that means. Further, the warning only potentially works if you buy in a retail store. If you purchase online (as many people are doing given that it is the top seller on at the moment), there is no warning that you are purchasing a CD with some significant limitations.

The issue of copy protection brings to mind the role of the provinces in copyright and culture matters. My colleague Jeremy DeBeer has written about copyright jurisdiction, noting that as we move toward incursions into property rights (rather than traditional notions of copyright), the issue becomes a matter of provincial jurisdiction. The Coldplay issue falls squarely here as it raises classic consumer protection questions that are within the scope of provincial jurisdiction.

Further, it is not just copyright that is starting to encroach on provincial jurisdiction, but cultural policy as well. Earlier this week, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage released its interim report on the Canadian feature film industry. The report is well worth reading if you haven't bothered to read the 80 submissions or listen to the 180 witnesses that the committee has heard from thus far. It includes a section on the struggle faced by Canadian films to receive adequate distribution, noting that several people raised the prospect of reserved screens for Canadian or independent films. The problem? The federal government is unable to pursue this policy option since it would fall under provincial jurisdiction.

This issue arose last night at an Ontario Bar Association meeting as John Gregory, General Counsel in the Policy Division of the Ontario Attorney General's office, declined to comment on Bill C-60 since it was a federal matter. I don't think the provinces can stay silent for much longer.

One Comment

  1. How a music vendor ripped me off!
    I’ve been deceived!

    I recently purchased Coldplay’s latest album for the intent of creating mp3 tracks. I have already converted all my music albums to mp3 since it is a more accessible and flexible format. As stated in your article, mp3 tracks cannot be produced from this album using conventional methods. I feel deceived for I was unaware of this restriction at the time of purchase.

    As a result, I unsatisfactorily returned the album the HMV on Sparks explaining my situation expecting to receive a refund. HMV’s does not honor refunds on open products and I am sure that all music vendors adhered to this policy as well. To make a long story short, I was pretty steamed. I just left the album on the counter with disgust and walked away explaining that their product was useless for my purposes.

    I feel that I have been robbed in broad daylight with no recourse of action.