New Report Examines Weak Spots in Canada's Copyright Act, Urges DSPs to Be Regulated Like Other Services

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Canadian flag.

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage has released its report on remuneration models for artists and creative industries, as part of the federal government’s review of the Copyright Act. Entitled Shifting Paradigms, and chaired by Julie Dabrusin, the lengthy and comprehensive report is available on the House of Commons website.    

The major themes are increasing value gap, decline in the artistic middle class, impact of technology on creative industries, change in consumer culture, and Indigenous perspective on copyright.   

Challenges and possible solutions, as part 2 is titled, is broken down into issues common to all creative industries (all includes not just music, but television, film, visual arts, writing and publishing), the creation of Canadian content, copyright literacy, combatting piracy and enforcing existing rules, Copyright Board reform, and copyright term extension.   

Under the same section, under the music industry heading are extensive findings on new distribution models, frequent recommendations, radio royalty exemption, definition of sound recording, private copying regime, reducing the number of exceptions, rights reversion, tariffs, and additional support from the federal government.   

Recommendation 8 and 9 are, "That music streaming services be regulated like other Canadian music services" and "That tariffs for online music services be reviewed by the Copyright Board to ensure royalty payments provide fair compensation for artists."  

Music Canada, the non-profit trade and lobby group representing the major labels and associate indie companies and interests of the industry, has issued its response.

"I applaud the members of the Committee for listening to the voices of artists and the businesses who support music and for taking these critical first steps toward addressing the value gap in Canada," said Music Canada president and CEO Graham Henderson. "The Committee’s report provides a series of thoughtful and concrete recommendations to address the underlying causes of the value gap. Many of the recommendations will significantly and immediately improve the lives of artists and our industry."

The Standing Committee studies the policies and programs of the Department of Canadian Heritage, as well as the active organizations in the portfolio. Its findings -- based on testimony from dozens of creators and representatives from Canada's creative industries, as well as broadcasters, digital services, and other key commercial users and distributors, "tackles numerous weaknesses in Canada’s Copyright Act, identifying elements which have failed to keep pace with technology and the digital marketplace for music," says Music Canada.

Among the key recommendations in Shifting Paradigms, "which will bolster a functioning marketplace for creative works," writes Music Canada, in its press release,  "the report recommended addressing Canada’s broad safe harbour laws, eliminating or narrowing exemptions from the Act that prevent creators from being fairly compensated, combating modern forms of piracy (like stream ripping) and strengthening the enforcement of Canada’s copyright laws."

In one section of the report, it states, for example: "No witnesses expressed outright opposition to extending of the copyright term from 50 to 70 years after death."

The report recommends ending the "subsidy" paid by Canadian artists and labels to Canada’s largest broadcasters; limiting the Radio Royalty Exemption to only community and/or independent stations; and amending the definition of "sound recording" in the Copyright Act so that recordings used in television programs and films would be eligible for public performance remuneration.

Musician and label owner Miranda Mulholland, and chair of Music Canada's advisory council, spoke to the Committee about how addressing the radio royalty exemption and amending the definition of "sound recording" to end these subsidies paid by artists would make an immediate improvement in the livelihood of creators.  "The changes would end the unfair subsidies that artists have been paying large broadcasting corporations, and mean more creators can earn a sustainable living from their music," she said in a statement.

"The recommendations in this report would go a long way in restoring the musician's middle class," echoed bassist Eon Sinclair, founding member of the Juno Award-winning band Bedouin Soundclash, and member of the Music Canada advisory council.

"Today's report moves Canada into a leadership role in the international effort to close the value gap and address the harm being done to creators everywhere by overly broad safe harbour laws," added Henderson. "In order for these recommendations to make an impact on the music community, they must become law. Music Canada looks forward to working with the Government to reform the Copyright Act as soon as possible to reflect the Committee’s recommendations."