MPs Vow Copyright Reform

Members of the Commons heritage committee yesterday praised “sensible recommendations” to rewrite the Copyright Act to reward creators. Performers complained they earn pennies from internet downloads and radio play.

“If we stopped to explain this in the street to every Canadian who listens to music they would be outraged,” said musician David Bussieres, founder of Montréal-based Regroupement des Artisans de la Musique. Copyright law leaves “crumbs for the artists”, he said.

Bussieres said his 2014 hit Lumière brought him $10.80 in royalties on Spotify though the song was played thousands of times. “It was 0.03¢ per hit,” he said. The same song generated 60,000 views on YouTube with net revenue of $153.

The typical Canadians pays $594 a year for internet service, according to the CRTC’s latest Communications Monitoring Report. “Out of all this money, only a tiny fraction of the subscription cost goes to creators after going through all the middlemen,” said Bussieres. “That’s where the 0.03¢ per listen comes into play.”

Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault (Edmonton Centre) calculated that “to earn the minimum wage of $15 an hour in Alberta”, Bussieres would need 9.5 million views a month on YouTube and 16,800,000 downloads on Spotify. “It’s not logical,” said Boissonnault. “It’s not fair.”

“You have to keep pushing,” said Boissonnault. “You have to use your voices. There is a natural tension in Parliament between the rights of the consumer, and the rights of the artist to earn a living. Those are fundamental rights, so keep pushing, because it’s our job to be in your corner and to be pushed.”

Performers yesterday urged that MPs rewrite the Copyright Act to compel internet service providers to ensure collection of royalties on works accessible through their networks; extend copyright protection from 50 to 70 years after a creator’s death; and repeal a provision that exempts performers from receiving payments for rebroadcasted works used in TV and film soundtracks.

“These are all sensible recommendations in my opinion,” said Liberal MP Pierre Breton (Shefford, Que.). “They could be implemented rather quickly.”

“We Are Subsidizing Billionaires”

MP Pierre Nantel (Longueuil-St. Hubert, Que.), New Democrat heritage critic, said the committee had an obligation to ensure the Act does not punish performers. “It’s very important that you keep reminding us of your realities,” said Nantel: “Here in this committee, our job is to protect and value the work of our artists and our culture.” The MP described artists’ proposed reforms as “a roadmap with regard to what we should do”.

Testifying at the committee, violinist Miranda Mulholland recommended Parliament also repeal a Copyright Act provision limiting royalty payments by radio stations. “We are subsidizing billionaires and the subsidies have to stop,” said Mulholland, who questioned “just who the government and the copyright laws are protecting”.

“It was a 1997 subsidy given to every commercial radio station in Canada allowing them to only pay $100 in royalties on the first $1.25 million in advertising revenue – and it was meant to be temporary, 20 years ago,” said Mulholland, a member of the Board of Governors of Toronto’s Massey Hall. “The landscape has changed significantly, and now most of these stations have been acquired by the big media companies. But the subsidies still apply. That means all your favourite Canadian artists are subsidizing Bell and Corus.”

Added Mulholland: “Apply skepticism when those currently taking advantage of artists come here and tell you the system is fine, and that artists are better off, or that we just aren’t working hard enough. They might do what they did in Europe and swamp your inboxes with technologically-created auto-spam to give you the false sense that there are thousands of faceless voters determined to vote to protect the status quo.”

Mulholland did not identify any spammers by name. Open Media, a Google Corp.-funded advocacy group, earlier acknowledged it blitzed federal legislators with more than 22,200 emails in a week protesting changes to the Copyright Act. Open Media when contacted by Blacklock’s September 5 said it had modified a website form that allowed indiscriminate emailing by any computer user in any location.

By Staff

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