Meeting with James Rajotte (Conservative, Edmonton - Leduc), chair of Industry Committee.

I met this morning for about 70 minutes with James Rajotte. He initially indicated we had about 20 minutes, but I suspect the conversation was considered interesting enough that he decided to extend the time. We met the first time in the context of my intervention at Industry Committee in 2004 to discuss a bill about satelite television and competition.

(Note: Mr. Rajotte was the Chair of the Industry Committee in the 1'st session, and is likely to also be the chair in the 2'nd session)

Our conversation was launched based on a few recent letters on the topic of the iPhone unlocking scandal and earlier about the Committee report "Counterfeiting and Piracy are theft". As part of the latter letter I included a copy of my article on the Jefferson Debate, which he had already seen before the meeting.

I first spoke about the 4 owners implicated in digital copyright, trying to keep the conversation focused on the rights of software authors and hardware owners. I discussed how the controversial form of "DRM" is made up of two locks, one lock on the content and a second lock on the hardware.

I discussed how the technology used to record, edit and distribute creativity is identical to the technology used to infringe copyright. I clarified that there was no way to create a technology that can differentiate between creativity and copyright infringement, and that these things need to be left to being enforced in the law and not in technology. I gave the example of the parent recording their childs first steps in front of a television, and how a locked-down camcorder detecting watermarks might shut off : unable to differentiate between a "pirate" and a "parent".

He asked whether a DRM dominated world would mean that creators wouldn't be able to create. I didn't want to confuse the issue by trying to answer that question, so reversed it: I repeated that the technology to infringe copyright and the technology to create are identical. As long as creators are allowed to create without the "permission" of some agency (government, major labels/studios, whatever) then copyright infringement will be possible. I'm not sure if I was able to make this point clear, and is something we need to focus more time on clarifying.

We spent quite a bit of time talking about the music industry. He started by stating that the largest amount of lobbying comes from the music industry talking about stopping unauthorized peer-to-peer sharing of music, and the motion picture industry concerned about camcordering.

I tried to separate the music industry into its 3 components: composers, performers, makers. I discussed how the historically high costs of recording, editing and distributing of recorded music meant that the labels dominated, but that if allowed to be left to a free market that this would change with cheaper technology (more musicians able to skip the major labels entirely).

I'm not sure if he was convinced on this, and needs to have actual musicians (composers and performers) come in and talk about the benefits of new media to them, and the harm they are currently facing from the policies being proposed by the major music labels (representing the legacy business models, not representing musicians). I will be seeking out members of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition who can talk to Industry Committee members.

Our conversation partly fell because I didn't really understand a key question he had. He was asking how, in a model without DRM or the support of major labels, would a musician sell a CD. Since I see both DRM and major labels as being a hindrance, not a help, to selling music (in any form, from downloads to tangible media), I couldn't give a satisfactory answer his question.

We also spoke about problems with statistics. I suggested that the recording industry has seen real drops in revenue that are smaller than they suggest, but also that they have tried to attribute this all to peer-to-peer when so many larger factors exist. (Increased competition from independents and unsigned artists, competition from other markets such as games and movies, loss of catalogue sales and price pressure from the domination of big-box stores, price/market control from Apple, etc). I also suggested that we need to focus on the real return to musicians (songwriters and performers) and not the old-economy middle-men of the labels.

We also spoke about the general direction, with me clarifying that according to well respected economists that there are some markets where innovation is incentivised through competition rather than exclusive rights. I brought a copy of a paper co-authored by recent Nobel prize in Economics winner Eric S. Maskin (“Intellectual Property on the Internet: What’s Wrong with Conventional Wisdom?”) and the abstract page from “Sequential Innovation, Patents and Imitation”.

Other handouts include:

I brought signatures for both petitions. He had tabled signatures to our Petition for Users' Rights, but not yet our Petition to protect Information Technology Property Rights.

He suggested that I should continue what I'm doing by meeting with other MPs. I mentioned that I have been trying since 2001 to meet any MP that is willing to speak with me. He seems willing to help me make contact with other members of Industry Committee, once it is formed again in the new session of parliament.

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Parallels to Linux

First, I want to thank you very much for seeing and speaking to MPs for on these topics - it is probably very tiring and somewhat thankless work. I read this site daily and that thanks goes out to all the bloggers that spend time posting here.

This part struck me:
"He was asking how, in a model without DRM or the support of major labels, would a musician sell a CD"

The opensource community (Ubuntu ShipIt program and Fedora Free Media program for example) have solutions in place for handling physical distribution along side digital at low cost. I imagine you could contact them for more details on how they manage to distribute CDs and DVDs for free. Some of this cost is absorbed by donations, no doubt, but physical distribution I don't think is expensive as the labels want to make it out to be.

As far as adverting - Social Websites are a perfect place for bands to ensure that their music reaches the people that would like their music. www.hypem.com is a great example of people blogging about the music and tracks they enjoy. Last.fm is another example of people recommending tracks to each other.

In general I think music creators could find much inspiration for the troubles they are facing in opensource community solutions. Creatively OSS is much like music - people all over the world spend countless hours in pursuit of creating something they love. This creation then spawns, encourages and inspires others to create. And much of OSS is done on a donation (monetary or in-kind) basis.

These challenges, in my opinion, are not "new territory"; they are just "new territory" for the music culture which has long been dominated by corporate interests.

How do creators make music?

Our conversation partly fell because I didn't really understand a key question he had. He was asking how, in a model without DRM or the support of major labels, would a musician sell a CD. Since I see both DRM and major labels as being a hindrance, not a help, to selling music (in any form, from downloads to tangible media), I couldn't give a satisfactory answer his question.

Short answer: They don't.

In the last two weeks I saw two different bands perform. By examining my spending in both cases, we might determine how a performer continues to make money; even when the "industry" does not.

The first, Eric's Trip, was on a reunion tour. Having broken up in the late 1990s, they haven't released CDs with new material that I've not seen. I spent 15$ on a ticket and 20$ on a shirt. The last CD I bought from them (via the existing distribution industry) cost me 15$.

The second, Elliot Brood, is still together. At Bluesfest 2006, I spent 20$ on their CD. Their share of my ticket purchases for Bluesfest was minimal. I've seen them twice since then, for a total ticket cost of 25$. At their first show, I bought a shirt for 20$.

Assuming that their share of each of these purchases is the same , we can easily see that less than 30% of my contribution to their income came from CD sales. If we only look at the last decade, Eric's Trip has managed to get more money from me without recording a new CD.

I'm being a bit tricky in this response by redirecting it away from Mr. Rajotte's question about CDs without DRM. The question is leading, in that it assumes that performers make money from CDs. This perspective is too narrow. Often too few interests are seen to represent the "industry". Proper assessment of the issue needs consultation with a broader group: performers, composers, distributors, recording studios, retailers. That is, the entire industry.

How do you sell CDs ?

Plenty of music was created before it could be recorded, let alone copies of those recordings sold.

Selling copies of things that cost nothing to copy is not a viable business model.

Just because you can't sell CDs any more doesn't mean that you can't make a living form creating music (Prince's last album was given away for free. Radiohead also allow free downloads of their latest album).

Different players..

The recording industry were considered pirates in their day. Their "player pianos" and "talking machines" were making recordings of the work of the music industry (In those days, only composers had copyright) without getting permission from the composers, and the composers weren't giving permission. Many governments stepped in and set up a compulsory licensing system to legalize the recording industry where a payment was required rather than permission.

The day of the recording industry is over, and they served their historical purpose. The people you are talking about continuing to make money in the new era are composers and performers (the actual musicians), not "makers".

While I believe that performers should get fair copyright (not just neighboring rights, treated as trained monkeys in the music industry), I don't think 'makers' should have copyright at all.

Unfortunately this isn't a conversation we can have in parliament yet given MPs don't understand the debate.


Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.

yes, but...

But it was the musicians that you said he asked about :

He was asking how, in a model without DRM or the support of major labels, would a musician sell a CD.

Hence my comment seems like a reasonable reply (and agrees with you in that it's the musicians themselves that have recently started giving away the CDs or the digital recordings).

Thanks..

Thanks for the clarification. You are correct.

While I was differentiating between the 3 components of the industry, I don't know for sure that he was. What I wrote was in my own words, and not his. Had I a transcript then other people could have noticed things that I didn't.

We will have transcripts if we are then able to present to the committee.

He expects a bill related to this subject matter to be tabled soon, and expects our community (independent creators of all types, private citizens, etc) to be active. He sounded disappointed that we didn't submit our names to be witnesses for their "Counterfeiting and Piracy of Intellectual Property". I had sent an email to be circulated in the committee, but didn't think to specifically ask to be a witness. We'll have to watch more closely next session.

BTW: I received a voicemail yesterday from another MP staffer from the previous Industry Committee -- there may be another meeting coming up.


Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.