Harper Letter to Music Canada on Budget Day Confirms Copyright Extension the Product of Industry Lobbying


Harper Letter to Music Canada on Budget Day Confirms Copyright Extension the Product of Industry Lobbying

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.


  1. How/why is it even legal to bury a change such as copyright extension into a bill that more-or-less MUST be passed, such as a budget implementation bill?

    What other changes of the law could be buried into such a bill?

    How does the opposition (party) oppose such a change buried in a budget implementation bill like this?

    • This is not the first time that legislation totally unrelated to the actual spending of public funds was lumped in to one of Harper’s omnibus budget bills. In fact, every single one of the Harper budget bills has been an omnibus bill, and as they go, 2015 was even that bad, comparatively. 2013 (or maybe 2014) was more than 450 pages long, and included such changes as reducing the wait time for environmental impact assessments, or cutting out the majority of the Protected Lakes and Streams Act. Hell, this provision wasn’t even the worst in this omnibus; so far, that seems to be the Harper Cons including a bit of retroactive legislation that makes legal some illegal activities the RCMP took a few years back when the long gun registry was scrapped.

      As for your other question: in cases of a majority government, like Harper has right now, they can’t. They can jump up and down, and yell and scream and make a general fuss, and under normal circumstances, when budget bills are examined and debated over 6-8 weeks, that might have a desirable effect, as the reigning party is raked over the coals in the press. But, with Harper’s Cons, they’ll exercise a (previously almost never used) option to cut debate short after at most a week, and force the vote to go forward. As they hold a majority, even if every Lib, NDP, Green, and other vote against it, the budget will still pass.

    • That’s is what they always do, just like they are doing with Access To Information but now the RCMP are destroying records before Harper leaves office.


  2. Yet again the government blindly repeated the “protecting the artist” bullcrap, the reality is just protecting the middleman profits of foreignly owned record labels in the longterm. Music Canada is fraudulently using our country’s name to push their foreign US based agenda.

  3. Stevie….dutifully carrying on with the role of the puppet of the U.S. Someday, maybe, we may have a government that cares about Canada instead. What a concept.

  4. If they want to support artists, the extra 20 years of protection would revert to the artist (or heirs).

    They could also make it mandatory to register any work looking for the extension with unregistered works slipping into the public domain.

  5. Pingback: Harper Letter to Music Canada on Budget Day Confirms Copyright Extension the Product of Industry Lobbying – Michael Geist | The WordPress C(h)ronicle

  6. Hi, some anti-copyright Americans down here who occasionally follow Canadian copyright issues.

    You wrote that “[t]he 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.”

    Could the Harper government respond to that by simply claiming that they did do those things — whether they actually did so or not? In other words, is there any way to prove that they didn’t? (We know it’s difficult to prove a negative.)

    The letter by itself seems inconclusive (unless we’re missing something), and we’re interested to know if there’s more of a “smoking gun”, so to speak. It seems as if Harper could just claim that other groups besides Music Canada asked the government to extend the copyright term, even if that’s not true. Is there any evidence to the contrary (i.e., statements from significant stakeholders denying the need for an extension)? Has anyone asked for proof of requests / support for it?

    Thanks for being patient with Yanks who don’t know the background on this.

  7. robinottawa says:

    Crass, arrogant corporatism. I.e., business as usual.

  8. Sativa Girl says:

    Steve Harper should have a beer with Barack Obama, and teach his Yankee amigo how to act like a king and ignore legitimate law.

    • Really, They are both utterly lawless. And Harper still has a long way to go in matching the bloodspilling that Obama’s lawlessness has resulted in. But he’s done okay!

  9. The conservative government not bothering to consider anyone else’s opinion is hardly a new strategy for them…. ever since they got a majority government, they have just dictatorially pushed any changes they might have on naught but a whim through the lawbooks, and even if they lose the next federal election, the laws will be harder to change.

  10. Let me get this straight,
    Mr. Harper can write personal letters on official government letter head to big business, but yet Mr. Harper can’t be bothered to acknowledge that military dependants were also the victims of sexual assaults on the various Canadian Forces bases in Canada.

    Well, at least I know where his priorities are.

  11. Liam Young says:

    Yet one more clue about how crooked the Harper government is. When are the 30% of Canadians that support these people going to get it?

    • Shaun Firth says:

      The people who support this gov’t fall into two categories. One, folks who don’t do any research or reading, they just watch the TV commercials and pick the guy with the biggest budget, and the best produced lies. The other camp is far worse. They are the people who benefit from Harper’s self-serving agenda. The same segment that benefit from his anti-environment, pro-big business policies and USA ass-kissing behavior. Basically, he is elected by the arrogant and the ignorant. Unfortunately, the more he makes Canada resemble America lite, the worse it’s likely to get.

      • Perfectly correct. And I would add that’s it’s tough when your friends and family fall into the former category. I sent off the write2know petition today to friends and family and one friend emailed me back to say he thinks Harper is doing a great job! It’s a free universe.

  12. Stan Kulin says:

    isnt freedom of speech great?!

  13. David Cramer says:

    The Harper government seems to have perfected the art of destroying Canada by completely gaming the system using a consistent and complete perversion of political ethics. If you set out with zero principles there’s no limit to the damage you can do. Possibly the only legal recourse to Harper’s omnibus bills is for all the other parties to agree to mobilize a parliamentary strike.

    • Shaun Firth says:

      Strike won’t work. Harper will just blame the opposition and wait until services start to become effected. His propaganda machine will go into high gear, and the same people who gave him a majority will get behind him. By the time it’s over he’ll even find a way to look like the hero. My question is, why can’t we table legislature that says something as important as THE BUDGET can’t be an omnibus bill? Why do we even have this kind of bill? Is it to speed up the process? Or to make it easier to hide and pass unpalatable legislation?

  14. Are records of lobbyist meetings and correspondence available online? What exactly are the laws requiring disclosure of contact or association with lobbyists and/or corporations who have interests in anything tabled by a government representative?

  15. Pingback: While Other Countries Debate Copyright Terms, Canada Just Takes Record Labels’ Word That It Needs To Increase | Technology