Monday, June 21, 2010

Canadian copyright Bill C-32 - what does it mean for us?

Recently, you may have heard in the news about Canada's new copyright bill: C-32. There is also a good analysis here at ZeroPaid.

A couple weeks ago I was invited to share some opinions on CBC's Early Edition with Rick Cluff. Unfortunately a public archive of that show is not available online, so I'll give a brief recap here:

There are new provisions in the bill that make illegal the act of breaking a digital lock for the purpose of reproducing a sound recording, or other type of media (film, videogame, etc.). Since most CDs are not sold with digital locks, this has little implication for artists like ourselves.

There are other provisions that make it possible for copyright enforcers/holders to demand ISP (your address) information from internet providers, like Rogers or Shaw, when they suspect a customer may be involved with illegal downloading. This is a potential gateway step towards more draconian individual downloading penalties as exhibited in current French copyright laws, especially when C-32 goes further to include the following:

"A differentiation of commercial copyright violation versus individual violation. Individuals found violating copyright law could be liable for penalties between $100 and $5,000, which is below the current $20,000 maximum."

To me this says: let's set up a new, lower penalty bracket for for the personal violator (ie. myself, you and everyone else who downloads illegally on the internet), distinct from the commercial violator, so that record companies can more conveniently go after these petty cases.

So the question becomes: what kind of record companies or musicians will be able to follow up on these types of cases in court? The answer is simply, only the richest ones who can afford legal representation. Major label executives from the physical-format music industry days of bygone are desperately lobbying for legislation that will aid in gleaning whatever profit scraps can be purged from a dinosaur system.

For better (mostly) and worse (not so much) illegal downloading has become an important, if not integral way for emerging bands to become known to the public. I've even heard it referred to as "the radio of the future". A more progressive government might acknowledge this trend and relate it to artistic development and innovation. It might say: hey, since we're making all sorts of cuts to arts funding, lets see what we can do to monitor downloading for the purpose of figuring what artists might be worth endorsing in order to further enrich our nation's culture.

Music piracy is here to stay, forever, period. There is little point in spending tax dollars on prosecuting individuals who deliberately choose to procure music in illegal ways online because for every one caught, there will be tens of thousands at large (like you and me). Instead, there exists a need to sponsor an organization in Canada similar to the UK's Featured Artists' Coalition, which aims to establish a closer connection between artists and fans in order to make the public aware of the new financial plights experienced by musicians emerging in a digitally dominated record industry.

Let's educate the public about the crude reality that for every one new record bought legitimately, CD, vinyl, or digitally, hundreds and thousands more are downloaded illegally. New copyright bills should include provisions for methods for supporting a national arts community in a collaborative and innovative way. Preventative legislation will not stop all the downloading.



  1. Thanks for this. I hope more independent artists will speak up and say "not in my name" to this Bill.

  2. If there were some way to prosecute only the suckers who voted for Stephen Harper... I would be ok with that.