As the federal parties have now released their platforms, we are reminded of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage study of the Music Industry. The Standing Committee held 14 meetings in the music study, hearing from 82 witnesses and received 15 briefs. This process allowed the Committee to hear from stakeholders in areas that they may normally have less opportunity to interact with, such as music education and music tourism. The report resulted in 10 good recommendations and had the support of all three main parties.
Those recommendations included efforts to strengthen support for the music industry through future investment in funding mechanisms, and notably – digital distribution and streaming, with a specific focus on copyright legislation.
As we move closer to the upcoming election, we are struck by the fact that none of these recommendations made their way into the economic or cultural party platforms. Given the broad support for these recommendations, we would like to take the opportunity to reiterate the importance of continuing to strengthen Canada’s music industry through legislative reform. As columnist Kate Taylor said earlier this year,
Musicians have faced the devaluation of their labour since at least 2000 – remember Napster? – and many now speak sadly of a society that takes a free soundtrack for granted. People refuse to understand not merely why they should pay any significant amount for streaming of downloading, but also why somebody should be paying the pianist who’s playing live in a bar or the composer whose melody can be heard over the sound system. If there is, perhaps, some growing outrage over this state of affairs, it is because musicians increasing have a lot of company.”
This “cult of free” as Kate describes it, continues to harm Canada’s digital economy and its creators. The latest iteration of this is Aurous, a new service that uses an interface similar to other paid streaming models such as Spotify or Rdio, but allows users to stream music using BitTorrent technology without paying artists. Piracy is still a problem, and not just for musicians. For publishers, and creators of all kinds who need a functioning online marketplace in which to conduct their business and make a living.
Our colleagues at the CMPA have put together an in-depth examination of three federal parties’ music platforms. It is interesting how much each party is talking about the need for further copyright reform.
It appears as though all parties agree that the decision-making process of the Copyright Board lacks deadlines and any procedural certainty. The industry may have disagreement about the details of the Board itself, but one thing we all agree on is: it’s cumbersome, and needs to be changed. The Conservatives, with their majority on the Heritage Committee, along with the three parties interviewed for this survey, all have a workable plan to change this, and we are looking forward to working with the next government on these critical issues.
The NDP told CMPA, “as things are moving in the digital world, we believe rights holders and the public are both losing in this situation.” Support for increased copyright protections are evident in this survey and across the industry – we look forward to bringing these, and other concerns to government in the 2017 Copyright Review. The digital revolution isn’t going to go away. In fact, it’s going to continue changing, and at even faster speeds than it is now. It’s time the government make changes to help protect and foster Canada’s creative businesses.