The government’s surprise decision to include copyright term extension for sound recordings and performances in this week’s budget is being painted by the music industry as important for Canadian artists. But sources suggest that the real reason for the change is the result of direct lobbying from foreign record labels such as Universal Music and Sony Music, who were increasingly concerned with the appearance of public domain records from artists such as the Beatles appearing on store shelves in Canada. As discussed in this post, Canadian copyright law protects the song for the life of the author plus 50 years. However, the sound recording lasts for 50 years. That still provides decades of protection for record companies to profit from the records, but that is apparently not long enough for them.
Earlier this year, a Canadian company called Stargrove Entertainment began selling two Beatles records featuring performances that are in the public domain in Canada. The records were far cheaper than those sold through Universal Music and were picked up by retail giant Walmart, who continues to list the records on their website (Can’t Buy Me Love, Love Me Do). There were additional titles featuring the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and the Beach Boys. Some of the titles are still available for sale through Walmart.
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As the Canadian government considers its next move on copyright reform, it would appear that the Canadian Recording Industry Association is readying a grassroots campaign to argue for a repeat of Bill C-61. The following leaked email was widely distributed from an executive at one of the major record labels:
I'm sure that all of you are aware of the current challenges that we have within our industry around copyright infringement. What you may not know is that there is a lack of support within our government for laws that are currently in place NOT protecting copyright work. Virtually every other developed nation in the world has taken one key step to keep peer to peer downloading under control: they have modernized their copyright rules for the digital age. It is time Canada's Parliament implement similar, long overdue reforms, in keeping with our country's commitments under the 1996 WIPO Internet Treaties.
You can make a difference by understanding the current challenging situation, talking to your colleagues about it, and letting your MP know how you feel about this. Below and attached is a Frequently Asked Question form that can bring you up to speed on the issues and other info that you may not be aware of. Take a minute to review, and then please follow up by sending an email to your MP if you feel that music and these matters are important to you. In addition to the email message, or as an alternative, please write a letter or call your MP and the Heritage and Industry Ministers.
The letter then lists the addresses for Industry Minister Tony Clement and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore along with links to a series of supportive organizations and a non-functioning link to a Copyright FAQ that is currently hosted at Universal Music (but indicating that the source is CRIA).
While the industry may face some challenges in generating a major grassroots campaign demanding a Canadian DMCA, more important is their planned Copyright FAQ which unsurprisingly tells only one side of the story. There are no questions about the robust copyright collective system in Canada, private copying, the Songwriters proposal, the CMCC, the effectiveness of notice-and-notice to address online infringement, etc. Instead, the FAQ states [with commentary in brackets from me]:
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Howard Berman, the U.S. Congressman who is sometimes called the "representative from Hollywood", was at it again today, leading hearings at the Foreign Affairs Committee on Global IP Theft that quickly became yet another case of "Blame Canada." As implausible at seems, there is a regular sport in the U.S. of claiming that Canada is the source of evil when it comes to IP laws.
At today's hearing, Berman demanded that Canada implement the WIPO Internet treaties, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees inaccurately claimed that " Canadian movie theaters account for nearly 50 percent of all camcorded sources worldwide" and urged Canada to pass legislation similar to the DMCA (Disney Chair Richard Cook noted that the anti-camcording law has reduced Canadian camcording), and Universal Music Group President Zach Horowitz claimed that Canada has the highest level of online piracy in the world, that we are a haven for unauthorized music sites, and that "there is no recourse against online theft." After this misleading and inaccurate testimony, Horowitz then urged the Congessional panel to ask Canadian officials "to explain their reputation as a nation unfriendly to the policies at the heart of copyright and the realities of the borderless digital marketplace."
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Doug Morris: "There's no one in the record industry that's a technologist. That's a misconception writers make all the time, that the record industry missed this. They didn't. They just didn't know what to do. It's like if you were suddenly asked to operate on your dog to remove his […]
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