The government’s decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings in the budget may have taken most copyright observers by surprise, but not the music industry. I’ve posted earlier on their extensive lobbying efforts on the issue and how the extension will reduce competition, increase costs for consumers, and harm access to Canadian Heritage. The record of lobbyist meetings gives a hint of the reasons behind the extension, but a letter sent by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that I recently obtained suggests that it all it took was a letter from Music Canada President Graham Henderson to the Prime Minister.
The Harper letter was sent on April 21, 2015, the day the budget was tabled. It states:
Thank you for your recent letter regarding the copyright term for sound recordings. I have reviewed this material carefully, and share your view that the current term of copyright protection for sound recordings falls short of what is required to protect artists and ensure they are fairly compensated for their work.
Please know that, as announced today in Budget 2015, our Government will extend copyright protection for sound recordings from 50 to 70 years. The extension will be incorporated into the Budget Implementation Act, and will be in effect immediately upon passage of the legislation.
The letter is remarkable as it confirms that the copyright term extension for sound recordings was strictly the product of behind-the-scenes industry lobbying with no broader public consultation or discussion. While other countries spent years debating the issue with careful study, the Canadian government simply caved on the issue based on a little lobbying from foreign record labels. The Conservative government did not consult with Canadian companies or retailers about the impact of their changes, nor did they dig into the data that would have revealed that this change will decrease revenues for many artists. Instead, the major record labels pulled out all the stops to block competitive new records from entering the marketplace and the Prime Minister obliged by including copyright reforms in a budget bill.