Thoughts about C-32 committee meeting 16

Thursday was Radio Broadcaster day, with the morning and afternoon sessions being witnesses from the radio broadcasting industry talking about exceptions relating to temporary reproductions for technological purposes and ephemeral recordings exception (Modifications to sections 30.71-30.9).

I don't have any skin in this specific game. I am not a broadcaster, and don't listen to music on radio. I very occasionally listen to CBC news in the morning, and have some radio shows I listen to as MP3's (audio blogs), but I'm not an audience for the type of broadcaster being discussed.

It is also hard to be seen as sympathetic to broadcasters generally. The way the broadcasters are spinning this, including in their "Local TV...err. Radio matters" attack ads, is disgusting and dishonest.

The politics at committee and in the public will be that this is poor artists just trying to eke out a living coming up against rich corporate broadcasters wanting to rip off the artists.

This is a scenario where labels are kept in check by the fact that they are under a section 19 compulsory license. This is an exception to copyright where they have no right to refuse permission, only a right to receive a royalty rate set by the copyright board. Subsection 19(3) even dictates that performers make 50% and maker(s) receive the other 50%, a scenario that is far more reasonable than what we see elsewhere when composers and performers make pennies on the dollar.

For those who are often justifiably upset with the recording industry, and how they are the cause of many of the problems in the music industry, this is not an issue in this case.

All of that said, I believe there are a few principles involved that we must remember.

The first is that the Copyright Act should not be being abused to create government funding programs. Copyright should be a clear list of activities that need permission from the copyright holder to be done, with royalty-bearing (compulsory licenses/levies) or royalty-free (fair dealings) exceptions when necessary.

How much money a copyright holder or copyright user has, how wonderful or evil they may be as persons, should be irrelevant to the conversation. These might be relevant questions when talking about government funding programs, but entirely inappropriate for discussion of Copyright. These conversations may even be appropriate for a copyright board hearing when setting rates for communicating music to the public by telecommunications.

The bulk of the questions from opposition members at committee were of this type: very appropriate for a Heritage committee recommendation to raise arts funding, but inappropriate for the C-32 legislative committee.

The second principle is that private activities such as time, device and format shifting should be outside of copyright. Ideal would be if it were simply a limitation (section 3/etc updated to clarify that purely private activities did not qualify), but a second choice is as a clear exception. It shouldn't matter if it is a private individual as discussed in section 29.x or specific institutions as discussed in section 30.x.

The suggestion that "if an activity has value, then that value should be attributed to the copyright holder" is unreasonable. In order for copyright to be respected it must be respectable, and allowing copyright holders to impose themselves on private activities puts the entire concept of copyright into disrespect. Decreases in the respectability of copyright will always lead to more infringements, including infringements we all agree are harmful.

This is a serious problem that is forgotten by the copyright maximalists, who naively believe that "more copyright means more money to copyright holders" when in fact the opposite is true. If we want creators to be rewarded for their valuable contributions to society, we must modernize copyright to ensure that it is respectable. If the only activities that were infringing were socially unacceptable activities, then infrigers would be cast out of respectable society.

As it is I hear more and more people boasting about infringing activities in public, and outside of the copyright reform bubble it is not seen as a bad thing. I cringe at this growing situation.

As it is now Copyright is considered a joke (without a good punchline) by many Canadians once they realize what it covers, and that every day activities which they have no plans on discontinuing (time shifting with a VCR, transferring legally acquired content to all their devices, etc) are infringements.

The "reproductions for technological purposes" is one of the better clauses in Bill C-32. Unlike the section 29 modifications for personal time and format shifting that are so convoluted as to guarantee they will induce infringement, these sections are relatively easy to understand.

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couldn't agree more

The way in which copyright is represented and manipulated by individuals and groups is putting it into peril similar to prohibition.
If people don't respect it, it has no value.