Copyright Collectives Gone Mad: How the ERCC Spent Dollars to Earn Pennies

Howard Knopf points to an interesting Copyright Board of Canada decision that provides a instructive lesson in how copyright collectives fail. At issue is the Educational Rights Collective Canada, a collective formed in 1998 to collect royalties for educational copying of broadcast programs in classrooms. The ERCC, which includes the CBC as a founding member, asks the Copyright Board to effectively put an end to its tariff as it admits that it has never distributed any money to rights holders and is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

How did it come to this? The ERCC acknowledges that royalties for its tariff have never exceeded $10,000 per year, however, the collective’s debts stand at $830,000. There is little cash on hand and its creditors (which presumably include the CBC) will receive less than 5 percent of what they are owed. The debt was largely accumulated in trying to create its tariff in the first place. Yet it is difficult to understand how broadcast organizations ever thought this was a good idea. Even before the advent of Internet-based video, the law permitted schools to copy news and news programs for playback in the school for one year without payment. Today, the tariff is a non-starter since Bill C-11 significantly expanded the rights of educational institutions.

The decision to wind-up the ERCC reflects both changing laws and a tariff that has always offered very limited value. While some collectives are insistent that changing laws should have little impact on their business, the reality is that new technologies, methods of distribution, and user rights will invariably have an impact on copyright collectives and the value associated with their licences. The ERCC was simply a bad idea in which millions was spent by both sides to decide on royalties worth a fraction of expense, but all must recognize that the shifting environment requires a recalibration of the value of certain licences and a re-assessment of the use of the Copyright Board process.

Tags: / /


  1. I know
    lets lose more rights , allow more spying on us and cost everyone so much money that we need a wheelbarral to get round thorugh doors into cars , past anything by anyone and to say or so any thing….

    YUP this is not going the way they thought cause those nations with less laws now have better tech at far cheaper prices…go research fighter jets to see what i mean….all this patent and copyright mess is destroying them and us.

    By them its those very rich and how they got there….

    the latest quote by harper is that banks will be allowed to seize all our cash in them?

    LOLWHAT….ok im not keeping money in a bank anymore…screw that and then you just destroy the best banking system going….
    I’ve said it these conservatives should be in a mental institution…it’s looking like i was right and that “h” word i said here that once got me banned….wasnot at you mike…it was at the way harper is and has and his party and friends act….

    People do not always klook up the site owners nationality and thus you got sore over it….
    Sorry Mike….
    Anyhow…doesn’t change my view on the types a people that vote for htem or there behaviour….


    President and Chairperson

    United hackers association

  2. Dear Chronoss,
    I’m sorry that you’re lonely at this festive time of year. You should consider poking your head outside one of these days. You never know: there might be someone, even for you.


  3. It’s hard to see why using the “h-word” (= Harper) would have such drastic consequences.

    For all of these copyright collectives, the key criterion for their usefulness is the proportion of their revenues that is paid to the authors. Unless at least half of its royalty revenue goes to those authors, it doesn’t deserve to exist.

    I know this is not directly related to Canada but still… Mr Geist already must know this but ill leave it here anyway…

    it IS ACTA by the backdoor!

  5. RE:
    That is not a strategy, There is no Irony in strategy. There is only winning strategy and losing strategy.

  6. RE:
    That is not a strategy, There is no Irony in strategy. There is only winning strategy and losing strategy.

  7. john r walker says:

    Michael, the copyright collective mind set is well summed by this quote from Dostoyevsky : “the formula two + two + five, has a certain appeal”. They are not sane.