The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage has conducted several weeks of hearings as part of its study on Remuneration Models for Artists and Creative Industries. While the copyright review is the responsibility of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, the heritage committee was asked to conduct a study to help inform its work. The mandate was described in the following motion:
That the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage conduct a study, in the context of copyright, on remuneration models for artists and creative industries, including rights management and the challenges and opportunities of new access points for creative content such as streaming and emerging platforms.
That Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage call upon the expertise of a broad range of stakeholders impacted by copyright to ensure a holistic understanding of the issues at play.
That Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage provide Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology with a summary of testimony and recommendations related to the items mentioned above for the parliamentary review of the Copyright Act.
The study still has a long way to go as the committee is accepting requests to appear until September 28, 2018 and briefs until December 14, 2018. Yet to date, the committee has done little to meet its actual mandate of hearing from a broad range of stakeholders to explore remuneration models and emerging platforms. Instead, it has largely provided a forum for some creator groups, particularly copyright collectives, to get a duplicate opportunity to present their case for reforms.
The recent witnesses bring few new ideas or even updated data on new business models. For example, on May 29th, the committee did hear from one musician from the Jerry Cans, but more of the time was allocated to the Canadian Private Copying Collective to argue for a $160 million handout as an alternative to taxing the sale of all digital devices in Canada. On May 31st, music groups emphasized reforms such as copyright term extension, a tax on all smartphones, the imposition of Cancon requirements on online music services, ISP licensing, and ISP liability for the activities of their subscribers. It was more of the same the following week with many more music collectives including Re:Sound and SOCAN raising the same issues that will come before the Industry committee.
Over a two week period, the committee heard from one artist appearing on his own behalf and 17 copyright collectives, publishers, rights management companies, and other music associations:
- Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada
- Canadian Independent Music Association
- Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada
- Association québécoise de l’industrie du disque, du spectacle et de la vidéo (ADISQ)
- Re:Sound Music Licensing Company
- Songwriters Association of Canada
- Canadian Music Publishers Association
- Guilde des musiciens et musiciennes du Québec
- Professional Music Publishers’ Association
- Alliance nationale de l’industrie musicale
- Canadian Federation of Musicians
- Canadian Private Copying Collective
- Conseil québécois de la musique
- Music Canada
- The Jerry Cans
- Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec
Committees should hear from a wide range of stakeholders representing all perspectives, however to date, there has been no user representation, no innovative business, and few artists appearing on their own behalf. In the music context, where are the streaming services? Where are the other businesses that are finding innovative ways to use music in the digital environment? Where are the artists with experience in the digital marketplace?
The problem with the study is not limited to the one-sided perspectives. The hearings have also directly overlapped with the work of the Industry committee raising questions of the need for a duplicate set of hearings. Rather than supplementing the Industry committee with a focus on remuneration models for artists and creative industries as required by the mandate, much of the Heritage committee discussion emphasizes tired reform proposals such as term extension or copying taxes. In fact, witnesses at Industry have referenced their Heritage appearances, suggesting there is little reason for both if the Heritage committee veers far from its mandate. There are still many months to go, but getting back on track requires repositioning the hearings consistent with the original motion and taking the instructions calling for a broad range of stakeholders seriously.