The Canadian music market has experienced some dramatic developments in recent months, most notably Nettwerk's decision to speak out against file sharing lawsuits (with financial backing of a U.S. defendant in one case), the CRIA/Pollara study, and the recent departure of six leading Canadian independent labels from CRIA. While those were justifiably big stories, they pale in comparison to news that has emerged this evening in advance of tomorrow's World Intellectual Property Day.
Some of Canada's best-known musicians have launched the Canadian Music Creators Coalition, which in the words of the coalition will "ensure that lobbyists for major record labels and music publishers are not the only voices heard in debates about Canada's copyright laws and other key cultural policy issues."
Who is involved? For starters, there is Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, Chantal Kreviazuk, Sum 41, Stars, Raine Maida (Our Lady Peace), Dave Bidini (Rheostatics), Billy Talent, John K. Samson (Weakerthans), Broken Social Scene, Sloan, Andrew Cash, and Bob Wiseman (co-founder of Blue Rodeo) who between them have won dozens of Grammy and Juno Awards while selling tens of millions of records worldwide.
What do they stand for? Given that the artists take umbridge at the fact that the record labels make demands in their name, I'll let them speak for themselves:
Artists do not want to sue music fans. The labels have been suing our fans against artists' will, and laws enabling these suits cannot be justified in artists' names
Digital Locks are Risky and Counterproductive
Artists do not support using digital locks to increase the labels' control over the distribution, use and enjoyment of music or laws that prohibit circumvention of such technological measures. Consumers should be able to transfer the music they buy to other formats under a right of fair use, without having to pay twice.
Cultural Policy Should Support Actual Canadian Artists
The vast majority of new Canadian music is not promoted by major labels, which focus mostly on foreign artists. The government should use other policy tools to support actual Canadian artists and a thriving musical and cultural scene."
In addition to the press release, the artists have released a white paper study detailing their positions. For these artists to publicly stand up and say no to P2P lawsuits, no to statutory damages, no to the use of DRM, and no anti-circumvention legislation takes real courage. From them to highlight the need for real support of Canadian artists (the breaking point for the six indie labels), demonstrates just how frustrated they have become with policies that fail to provide adequate support for Canadian music. Moreover, the public stand highlights the commonality between artists and their fans and leaves little doubt that the real copyright divide lies between copyright lobby groups on the one hand and artists and users on the other.
No one should underestimate the importance of this development. After today, House of Commons committee hearings on copyright must include representation from the CMCC. Policy makers and politicians must take the time to consult with the artists themselves. Most importantly, government ministers will no longer be able to make policies in the artists' name, when those policies represent the views of lobbyists, not artists.