The CRIA Pledge

Today's Sunday Star contains an important letter to the editor from Graham Henderson, President of the Canadian Recording Industry Association.  Responding to concern that the exculsion of the iPod from the private copying system would lead to liability for Canadians who copy their own CDs to their iPods, Henderson pledges on behalf of CRIA and its major member labels to refrain from taking action against such consumers, who he characterizes as the "good guys".  The full letter reads:

Recording Industry Won't Target True Fans

Michael Geist has correctly drawn attention to the unintended consquence of last week's Supreme Court of Canada ruling. It places people who legally acquire music and then copy it to their hard drives or portable devices in a legal grey zone. However, on behalf of the Canadian Recording Industry Association and its major label members, I can state that no action will be taken by CRIA against the "good guys." People who legally acquire music are the artists' best friends, and we do not intend to punish them.

This statement is certainly welcome news but raises several issues.  First, we should be clear that the SCC decision addresses portable devices, not computer hard drives.  The issue of copying to computer hard drives remains an open issue.

Second, while it is great that CRIA and its members have made this commitment, consumers are still not in the clear.  Other rights holders in the same songs have not made a similar pledge and there accordingly remains the potential for liability.

Third, CRIA's pledge calls into question its 15 years of lobbying for a private copying regime.  If CRIA considers people who buy music and then make personal copies the "good guys", why do we need the private copying system at all (more on this in my column tomorrow)?

Fourth, and most importantly, this pledge has important implications for Bill C-60.  The government's copyright reform package makes it an offence to circumvent a technological protection measure for the purposes of copyright infringement.  There is one notable exception to this principle: private copying.  In other words, someone who circumvents their store-bought CD for the purposes of private copying still commits an infringement under Bill C-60. 

CRIA now characterizes this person as one of the "good guys" and has committed to not sue those that legally acquire music and make personal copies to their hard drives or iPods. It stands to reason that this principle should similarly apply to those that circumvent a TPM in order to make such a copy (for example, to copy the new Coldplay CD which contains anti-copying technology).  CRIA and consumers appear to be on the same page on this issue, namely that consumers that purchase CDs should have the right to make personal copies to their other devices without fear of legal liability (nor further compensation). I would hope that we will see CRIA call on the government to drop this unnecessary exception to its circumvention package. 


  1. Nato Welch says:

    The function of law
    This is rather unprecedented. So what they’re getting at is that they won’t draft this exception into the bill, but they’ll “promise” not to sue iPod users? Until it’s inconveinet, no doubt.

    At one time, law was there to deter undesired behaviour. Now, it seems to have encroached on society so far that it serves to make everyone liable for something, so that they can be prosecuted at the convenience of those who can afford lawyers.

    This is ridiculous.

  2. And they have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn.