Today is music day at the Bill C-32 committee as there will be two panels focused on music copyright issues. The first panel is the Balanced Copyright For Canada panel, comprised of CRIA (which backs the site as part of its strategy to “radicalize and activate” its base through social media as Graham Henderson described it earlier this month) and four of the site’s board members. The second panel includes SOCAN, ADISQ, GMMQ, and the SAC.
The BCFC panel should raise some interesting questions about what CRIA says publicly at committee or does in the courts and what it says behind closed doors. I recently obtained a document under the Access to Information Act summarizing comments made by Henderson to Industry Canada officials in a September 2010 meeting, several months after Bill C-32 was introduced. The meeting was a Chamber of Commerce event, so CRIA did not report it in its lobbying disclosures. The summary includes two notable positions that seem to contradict public action or words and suggest a split between CRIA and other creator groups, including the Canadian Independent Music Association.
First, Henderson tells officials that Canada is a haven for pirate sites and that tough laws are needed to close them down. This is nothing new, yet these comments came months after dozens of record labels filed court documents asking the courts to close down isoHunt based on current Canadian copyright law. The documents include a statement of defence that argues that isoHunt is not operating lawfully in Canada and a statement of claim that seeks millions in damages and a shut down order.
Second, in discussing format shifting, Henderson is said to have noted “his disagreement with some creator groups who are advocating for an associated levy on digital media storage devices.” Not only does his opposition to the extension of the levy put him on the opposite side of many creator groups, it even places him on the opposite side of fellow witness Grant Dexter of Maple Music, who is the Chair of CIMA, which has argued for an extension of the levy.
The opposition to extending the levy also contradicts comments Henderson made before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage last April. When asked about CRIA’s apparent opposition to the levy, Henderson told Bloc MP Carole Lavallee:
We do support levies like this. We are also a member of the CPCC through our membership in the NRCC. It’s not just artists who benefit. It’s independent labels, major labels, songwriters. A lot of people benefit from the levy, so I don’t think there’s an issue about the existing levy. Do we have an issue with levies that are targeted and focused on private copies made from those legally acquired? No, we do not have a problem with that.
CRIA followed up with a public statement:
Canada’s record labels have no issue with such levies when they are applied uniquely to private copies of legally obtained music. However, we do not support levies that effectively launder illegally acquired music into a legal format, where artists and other rights holders are paid a pittance.
Note that the proposals put forward on the iPod levy do not focus on “laundering” music, but rather proposes compensation for format shifting. CRIA has publicly indicated support for such a levy in the past and now privately indicated its opposition to government officials. Which position will it take today?