This week, HMV announced that it was reducing the price on hundreds of back-catalog CDs generating a surprising amount of news coverage (Post, CBC). The move is good for everyone – the recording industry gets an important retail outlet to reduce prices on increasingly hard-to-find CDs (their largest retail outlets such as Wal-Mart do not carry many older titles), HMV gives a boost to music sales at a time when digital downloads, DVDs and video games command a growing share of the market, and consumers may find that the $20 sticker shock on some older CDs disappears. Yet leave it to CRIA to use the opportunity to spin this as a copyright reform story. HMV said absolutely nothing about the issue, because high-priced, older CDs have little to do with P2P file sharing or copyright law. CRIA's Graham Henderson claims, however, that "it's an effort to stem the tide of illegal downloading that threatens retailers and everyone else in the recording industry" and argues that other countries have reduced P2P through copyright reform while "a succession of Canadian governments have sat on their hands and done nothing."
Leaving aside the obvious – P2P is not down in other countries, HMV has not indicated that the reduced prices has anything to do with downloading, the Liberals introduced Bill C-60 in 2005, and that so-called "illegal downloading" often isn't illegal in Canada given the compensation that comes from the private copying levy – it is worth noting that these latest claims may drive a wedge between CRIA and one of its most important retail channels. In this case, HMV generates millions in free publicity for sale prices and CRIA jumps in with misleading copyright claims that only serve to undermine the goodwill created by HMV.
In many respects, this is nothing new. Over the past two years, the major Canadian independent labels have left CRIA, Canadian musicians have formed their own coalition to oppose CRIA's copyright reform initiatives, Canada's leading online music retailer (Puretracks) has moved toward dropping the DRM that CRIA previously claimed was essential, and the copyright collectives have found themselves opposing CRIA on issues such as the private copying levy and ringtones. In fact, within CRIA there is clearly differing views as two of its four key members have made moves to drop DRM from their digital download sales. The upshot of this is that the organization that once grabbed the mantle of representing the Canadian music industry is today an increasingly isolated foreign lobby group that will have to share the stage with many others when Ottawa introduces copyright legislation.