Newly-appointed Attorney General David Lametti in a paper written as a McGill law professor defended blatant music piracy as ethical “whatever the law”: “Everyone is doing it,” he wrote. Lametti yesterday did not comment.
“Everyone is doing it, and it is not necessarily theft, piracy or even wrong,” Lametti wrote in a 2011 paper The Virtuous P(eer): Reflections On The Ethics Of File Sharing. “It may be beneficial to one’s emotional and social development, and thus justified, ethical and virtuous.”
MPs are conducting a statutory review of the Copyright Act to curb costly theft blamed for billions in losses. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in a submission to the Commons industry committee called Canada a world leader in online copyright theft.
Lametti published the paper as director of McGill’s Centre for Intellectual Property Policy. “Listening to music helps to inspire new forms of music,” he wrote. “In some cases, blatant copying is part of the picture”; “I am mindful as well of a powerful argument that copyright rights, and the stringent enforcement of them, actually stifles creativity.”
Neither Lametti nor the Prime Minister’s Office would discuss the remarks. Lametti in a separate 2005 Montreal Gazette commentary complained of those who “kowtowed to copyright rights-holders”, adding: “No work is truly original in the abstract. All artists borrow a little bit.”
“If you are in the habit of sampling music in order to decide what music you will later purchase, this practice is ethically justifiable,” Lametti wrote in Ethics Of File Sharing: “If you do purchase, you should be able to expect, whatever the license agreement, that you can make a copy”; “My strong ethical intuition is that one should never put up a digital barrier or fence around music, whatever the law might allow” (original emphasis).
Composers and distributors contacted yesterday by Blacklock’s would not criticize Lametti by name. One executive speaking on condition of anonymity said Lametti’s appointment appeared to be an election-year expediency: “The Liberals needed a guy from Québec.”
“Creators Are Being Hammered”
“Intellectual property protections are the only way creators are properly compensated,” the Songwriters Association of Canada said in a statement. A stronger Act affects “our ability to make a middle-class living”, it said.
The Department of Industry in a 2018 Study Of Online Consumption Of Copyrighted Content: Attitudes Toward And Prevalence Of Copyright Infringement In Canada found 26 percent of Canadians surveyed admitted to illegally accessing music, e-books and software. Asked why, respondents replied it was easy to do (39 percent); “It’s only fair” (26 percent); “It’s what everyone does” (24 percent); and “I should be able to share my content with whomever I choose” (19 percent).
“Creators are being hammered from all sides, from minimizing streaming income to piracy,” Damhnait Doyle, vice-president of the Songwriters Association, said in testimony last June 7 at the Commons heritage committee. “Everybody is getting paid in the music industry. They are. The only people not getting paid are creators.”
“The middle class of creators has been eviscerated at this point,” said Doyle. “I know only one musician in Toronto who’s bought a house in the last ten years. Most cannot pay their rent, let alone go to the dentist.”
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in a November 5 submission to the Commons industry committee said the current Copyright Act is “insufficient to deal with these new threats”: “Canada is now one of the highest consumers of global web streaming piracy,” said Scott Smith, senior director of intellectual property policy with the Chamber. “The economic harm caused by online piracy is all too real.”
Lost royalties total $12 billion in the period from 1999 to 2018 according to Music Canada, a trade group.