Unparalleled Access

For the past two mornings, CBC Radio's Business Network has featured an asynchronous debate between myself and CRIA's Graham Henderson.  The Henderson interview [Real] includes claims that it is the failure to reform copyright law that is to blame for industry woes.  Henderson adds that Canadians have a developed a culture where they won't pay for music and therefore investors won't invest in the Canadian music industry.

My interview [Real] hits on many of the points I've made in postings over the past few months:

  • Digital downloads actually grew faster last year in Canada in 2006 than they did in the U.S. or Europe. While Canada starts from a smaller base, that reflects the fact that iTunes only arrived here in late 2004.
  • The digital download figures fail to account for the revenues from the private copying levy.  Throw in the $30 – 40 million collected last year alone and the amount that Canadians are paying for digital music becomes very significant.
  • CRIA's push for copyright reform continues its ill-advised emphasis on DRM and anti-circumvention legislation.  The industry is shifting away from this as consumers don't want music that won't play on their iPod or allow them to transfer between devices.  Moreover, Sony rootkit-type cases cause real damage to the industry's reputation and drive fans away.
  • CRIA is increasingly isolated within the Canadian market.  Last year, the major Canadian indie labels left CRIA and the CMCC provided a new voice to many of Canada's best known musicians.  In fact, according to documents recently obtained under the Access to Information Act, last year eleven professional organizations representing most Canadian copyright holders in the music industry, including songwriters, composers, performers, record producers, and publishers, wrote to Ministers Oda and Bernier to reject CRIA's new opposition to the private copying system and to "express their reservations concerning the legal protection of technological measures used to limit access to, or reproduction of, musical works."

CRIA's insistence on focusing on copyright as the source of its problems – along with its continual derision of Canadian policy and the motives of Canadians – is genuinely difficult to understand.  Even more difficult to understand, notwithstanding the well-documented fundraising issues, is why the government keeps granting it unparalleled access.

I've already reported about how CRIA was busy arranging an event for government officials within days of the election which led to a sponsored lobby session on March 2nd that included a government-funded lunch and a private meeting with Minister Oda.  Now new documents reveal that this was merely the tip of the iceberg.  Four weeks later (on April 1st), CRIA hosted a private lunch at the Juno Awards for Bev Oda featuring Henderson and the presidents of the major music labels followed by an artist roundtable.  Six weeks after that (on May 16th), Graham Henderson was granted another meeting with Bev Oda, this time to counter the news that the indie labels had left CRIA and that the CMCC had launched. 

This represents an incredible amount of access, particularly considering the unwillingness of the Minister or her staff to even meet with groups representing Canadian artists.  With literally monthly private meetings this spring between the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the President of the Canadian Recording Industry Association is it any wonder that Canadians are skeptical about whether their interests will be addressed in the next copyright bill?


  1. Dwight Williams says:

    Shared Concern Continued
    Thanks much for posting this, Prof. Geist.

  2. michael higgins says:

    This is very concerning to see the same backdoor shenanigans happening here @ home that happened down south to cause such horrors that we see, such as people being sued for no reason.

    How can we the people ‘buy’ back our elected officials from the hands of big media?
    obviously letters and petitions arent working, it’s only going to be $ that gets Bev Oda’s attention.

  3. Matt Livingstone says:

    Consumer, Taxpayer, Fair-User
    The actions on this MINORITY government on a issue that impacts every single Canadian has been absolutely disgusting, if not criminal.

    There has got to be something wrong when NONE of the stakeholders are granted a meeting with the Federal Minister to voice their concerns.

    We should DEMAND full public meetings across Canada on this issue and any proposed legislation. No one, but Canadians themselves, should be able to determine the future of copyright and more importantly fair-use in this country.

    Shameful. Boy is sure didn’t take long for the true blue Tories to get back into gutter politics as usual!

  4. Hamish Grant says:

    Thanks for responding to Graham’s interview. CRIA just blows my mind with their disconnect from both Canadian musicians and the general population.

  5. Librarian
    I caught your interview on CBC this morning over their Ogg stream and wanted to say good job. Haven’t heard the CRIA counterpoint though but maybe it isn’t worth it, but at least your piece was compelling enough for me to find your blog and duly put it in my rss reader. Looking forward to more pieces.

  6. Thanks for your continued work for Canadians.

    Have you been able to find any specific examples where Bev Oda or Bulte denied meetings to pro-user groups? Or examples where they held meetings? This issue also came up at the debate at TIP 2004 at University of Toronto.

    I’ve only been able to find one example either way. Russel McOrmond of was allowed a meeting with Bev to dissuade her from TPMs. His presentation notes are available at [ link ] .

  7. Who does Bev Oda think she is? And why is anyone even listening to her?

  8. John in Calgary says:

    And now I read the Blu-ray DRM has been bypassed by the same fellow who bypassed HD-DVD DRM. This ia ANOTHER eaxple that DRM does NOT stop piracy. All it does is create technological issues for people who legally acquire the content and lock them into proprietary platforms.

    So, in essence, the CRIA’s campaign is to take away current rights and allow multinational companies dictate the manner that “their” music can be used, even though history has shown content creators are woefully slow in adapting to the shifting markets.

  9. My letter to Oda

    I sent my MP and Oda a letter when I heard about this on Slashdot the other week.

  10. Thank you for discovering these facts.

    I think part of the moral of this story is to see that how quickly this minister forgets how exactly her party got into power. The very similar arrogance and corruption of some former politicians ended the former Liberal government. Can someone please remind Bev Oda and her boss to this fact?

    Canadian voters should demand and receive explanation why Bev Oda thinks that legislation, affecting the citizens should be based on the views and interests of a small, multinational industry lobby group.

  11. They are ALL aware
    When I see stuff like this I get mad. Then I calm down and promptly send an email to all 308 MPs. They can say a lot but they can NOT claim ignorance. They have to know about it.

    If they do nothing about it then they should all be fired. They must know that we are watching them and are not afraid to speak up about things.

    They are our public servants NOT our rulers.

  12. Capt
    I love you Mr. Geist!

    Keep fighting the good fight for socialism and copywrite reform!

  13. I wish I was in the Durham riding as I would be able to tell Bev why her party won\’t get my vote this time… I\’m going to have to tell my member of parliament that she will be taking it on the chin because of Bev Oda. This is a passionate issue for me, and I know of no other way to fight this kind of politics. Keep on speaking for us Michael, and lets us know through this Blog on how we can further help.

  14. Person
    Maybe if the licensing restrictions for buying stuff online wasn’t so crappy in Canada compared to the US people would be more compelled to buy music (and movies for that matter online). I buy all my music legally from iTunes, but I’m constantly disappointed as I discover than X and X songs are not licensed for online sale in Canada. The industry has no right to complain while they kludge the consumer with all this ridiculously complex licensing restrictions. You’re not even giving me the OPTION to buy it legally half the time. So the industry can go screw itself until it actually makes online music ACCESSIBLE.

    Consumers take the path of least resistance. It’s that simple. Put up barriers, and people turn to the black market.

    End of rant.

  15. Graham Williams says:

    I’ve just sent Bev an email. I think the most disingenuous part of her campaign is that sales of media in Canada are not flagging at all. If piracy is such a problem then why do we, the retailers, see year over year gains in marketshare and profits?

    This market is EXPANDING, not contracting. The CRIA has no justification in requesting any action; simply put, piracy in Canada is not affecting the sales of music or movies at all.

  16. Odious Oda
    Keep on fighting the fight Michael.

    I don\’t for the life of me understand why the news networks aren\’t reporting on Oda\’s Antics. This is pretty smelly stuff, but they\’ve been notably silent. I sent CBC an email asking why they\’ve been silent, but I seriously doubt they\’ll even answer, let alone do their jobs.

    Fortunately, bloggers are reporting these events. The news geeks should not be surprised that they are losing credibility as sources of news.

  17. Interesting.

    I wonder when the debate will move away from the piracy smokescreen. The ultimate goal is to make you pay for media, like you pay for parking… $1.50 for 30 min or portion.

    Digital delivery means you buy less media. Period. You buy only what you want. If you buy 20 CD’s a year and only like/listen to 4 tracks on each, you bought a lot of music you didn’t want. If you purchase a song at a time, you get the same amount of music, but since you no longer buy the extra 8 or 9 tracks on a CD that you don’t want, the music industry gets less money.

    Same thing for TV. If I just pay for the shows I actually watch (i.e. buy DVD’s of series), I don’t need to pay for 24 hours of content on 130 channels from my cable company.

    Ultimately, it means media companies will get less money because they will only get paid for what people actually want to watch. This is why they want you to pay every time you fire up an mp3 player or your tv, it’s the only way to sustain the bloated revenues.

    It hasn’t been about piracy for a long time. It’s about propping up a dead business model.

  18. We’re Canadians, we are not going to stop downloading because of douchebag Harper and his band of wannabe republicans.

    Fuck you music industry, Canadians will not be your slaves.