off the rails by Bruce Aldridge (CC BY-NC 2.0)

off the rails by Bruce Aldridge (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Off the Rails: How the Canadian Heritage Copyright Hearings Have Veered Badly Off-Track

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
  • ole
  • Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada
  • Artisti
  • 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.


  1. If Melanie Joly merely wants to secure funding she can direct, and this isn’t about creeping control to dominate publishing mediums.

    How about advocating for access to existing funding sources

    Like the ~20% of Canadian GDP that is unreported as income, but shows up in the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers.

    The Liberals campaigned on cracking down on the unfairness of taxing regular people twice as hard to make up for the effective subsidies given to certain Liberal party chiefs, newspaper owners, and pools holding copyrights.

    This is both an enforcement issue, where the CRA has been exposed as corrupt and choosing not to use its resources efficiently. It is also a legal issue, where the Canadian financial and legal sectors hide the beneficial owners.

    It is also an economic issue, for if incomes were properly reported in Canada — as opposed to the fiction that a desolate island has a per capita annual income of a trillion dollars — the productivity of Canadian employees would jump. Because the incomes would be subject to income tax, investment would be encouraged as an alternate means of avoiding tax. Competition would increase.

    To bring this back to the beginning, the last thing in the world Canada needs is to extend artificial monopolies for those seeking passive income. The small business formation rate is the lowest in history. There is too little competition, we cannot afford to carve out economy-chilling cashflow streams that are protected at public cost.

    Rollback the monopolies. Bring back fairness with equal treatment for big and small. Call out the lies that an incestuous committee knows how to, for today and all imagined futures, allocate grants better than an audience who actually cares about the art.

  2. And whose fault is that that other groups and interests have not shown up? Are they being denied the right to speak? What exactly is this issue here?

    Why is a public policy professor using language such as “handout” to describe a request for funding?

  3. Maybe instead of going after consumers they should be looking elsewhere. From Music Canada in the linked document

    “First, remove the $1.25-million radio royalty exemption. Since 1997, commercial radio stations have been exempted from paying royalties on their first $1.25 million in advertising revenue. It amounts to an $8-million annual cross-subsidy paid by artists and their recording industry partners to large, vertically integrated, and highly profitable media companies.”

    There are some simpler solutions that just slapping blanket taxes that punish fans.

  4. re: George
    “And whose fault is that that other groups and interests have not shown up? Are they being denied the right to speak? What exactly is this issue here? ”

    The purpose of consultation is not to hear just the answer you were seeking. This is not the first time a tiny group of selfish people have hoped to assign themselves an income the public, their opponents, have no symmetrical opportunity to do.

    If Melanie Joly entertained a tax on lobbyists, to fund the production of, again and again until one day she approved it because “everyone” supported it according to her ‘consultations’ — how would you expect yourself to respond in that situation?

    • Just because there is a group does not mean it is organized. Who would represent all the people who use the internet outside of the main silos? Many of us use the internet for alternative communications channels and all kinds of creative things that are not standard apps marketed by some corporation. Diversity is one of the hallmarks of the internet and it should be promoted and not discouraged. Giving corporations an advantage on the internet is just plain wrong.

  5. Pingback: One-Sided Story: Lobbyist Data Shows Music, Movie and Publisher Groups Account For 80 Per cent of Registered Copyright Meetings in Canada Since 2015 Election - Michael Geist