VKI Studios, a B.C. based Internet marketing firm, reviews CRIA's Balanced Copyright for Canada site, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly.
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After several weeks of delays, the Balanced Copyright for Canada site revealed its funding and advisory board late on Tuesday night, hours before the Canada Day holiday. The primary source of funding is not a surprise – as I suggested in my first post on the site – this is a Canadian Recording Industry Association production. As the public questions about the site mounted, the regular response was that this was an effort of "employees, unions, artists and creators" and that the all-Canadian Advisory Board would be announced soon. The fact that the site was really a CRIA attempt to create "grassroots" support for C-32 was not acknowledged.
The composition of the advisory board is interesting. First, of the 13 members, more than half are either record company executives, former record company executives, or lawyers who represent record companies. No surprise given the site's backing, but not exactly the promised "employees, unions, artists and creators." In fact, it is notable that there are very few prominent creators and not many representatives from creator groups outside the music industry such as authors, performers, directors, or artists. In fact, despite an earlier claim that Loreena McKennitt would be on the advisory board, those plans apparently changed.
Why so few creators? Quite simply, CRIA's interests are not closely aligned with many other creator groups. ACTRA and AFM Canada quickly distanced themselves from the effort and most other musicians have been focused on the private copying levy, not digital locks. Moreover, the site briefly hosted a "consumer letter" that fully supported extending fair dealing to education, a move strongly opposed by some copyright collectives and authors' groups.
The copyright lobby's BalancedCopyrightforCanada.ca astroturfing site has added a new mandatory requirement for all users that want to participate in the Take Action items. According to a site user, the site now requires users to send a form letter to their relevant Member of Parliament. There are two letter options – one letter for entertainment industry employees and one general letter.
Surprisingly for a site claiming to support creativity and copyright, the letters do not provide users with the opportunity to even use their own words – the form letter cannot be edited. This is particularly striking given the earlier criticism from some of the same groups on a CCER form letter service that offered users complete control over the substance of their letter and merely served as a delivery channel. Notably, the site has already been subject to gaming from non-Canadians as a random search of members turned up at least one U.S. based record company executive with Warner Music.
The site user reports that the site briefly offered a third form letter for consumers. That letter has apparently been removed, perhaps because it adopted positions expressly opposed by Canadian creator groups. While the site purports to protect creator rights, the letter supported format shifting without levies (opposed by groups such as ACTRA) and educational reforms to fair dealing (opposed by writers groups). The consumer letter included the following: