Musicians and Radio Broadcasters Speak Up on Bill C-32

Musicians and Radio Broadcasters Speak Up on Bill C-32

Ivy Tsui is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Members of the music and radio broadcasting industries provided comments related to Bill C-32 at the hearings of the Legislative Committee on March 1 and 3, 2011. This post reports on opening statements made by individuals and groups and focusses on comments regarding the Bill.  It reports neither on questions posed by Members of Parliament nor on the answers given by the presenters.

Music Industry

Canadian music companies and artists presented support for the Bill at the March 1st hearing. Ms. Maïa Davies, a Canadian songwriter and recording artist, stated that illegal downloading is simply a form of stealing. Mr. John-Paul Ellson, Chair of the Canadian Council of Music Industry Associations (MIA), which is a non-profit corporation providing professional development and pro bono legal services to new artists, also pointed out the general mistaken belief that the Bill has no effect on new artists. Quite the contrary, he said, digital piracy has a tremendous effect on new artists.

Mr. Grant Dexter, President of MapleMusic, also strongly support this bill. However, he criticized that the language used in the Bill is too broad to effectively meet its objectives. For example, the user-generated content provision and the exceptions related to making copies of legally purchased music within the households, should be more limited in scope. Furthermore, he suggested that a higher penalty should be imposed to effectively deter theft.

Loreena McKennitt, an independent artist from her own record label called Quinlan Road Limited, made several recommendations on Bill C-32. Firstly, she suggested that the language needs to be clear of what is intended. Secondly, she said that the companies who play a significant role in the management of online content, including ISPs, BitTorrents and isoHunts, and YouTube, should be responsible for the “copying” because these companies are making profits “off the eyeballs that are driven to their site to access illegal content.” On this point, she emphasized that exemptions should not be easily given. Thirdly, she suggested that the use of levies would not be helpful as it is not a meaningful income stream for artists. She advised the use of a request system, where users who wanted to use the music could simply obtain permissions for that use; thus, the content creators remain to have full control over their work.

Radio Broadcasters

Copyright is one of the biggest issues facing radio broadcasters. As Bill C-32 is granting exemption of the reproduction tariff to radio stations, the broadcasting industries are strongly supporting this bill. At the March 3rd hearing, the industry provided various rationales to grant exemptions to radio stations. All speakers insisted that copying, which included video transfer, is simply a technical requirement to broadcast music on air and confers no additional revenues to the broadcasters.

Sylvie Courtemanche, Chair of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, emphasized the importance to clarify the incidental inclusion provision in Bill C-32. Ms. Courtemanche contended that the reproduction tariff is distributed to overhead, legal costs and administration costs, thus its elimination is not carving money out of artists. She recommended amendments to promote technological neutrality, to clarify the intention to provide full exemptions for broadcasters to reproduction, to minimize confusion and ensure consistency with the Copyright Act as a whole.

Brad Phillips, President of the British Columbia Association of Broadcasters, and Vice-President of Astral Radio (BC Operations), showcased some astonishing achievements of his companies, and praised the local media for promoting unsigned artists. Mike Keller, Vice-President Industry Affairs at Newcap Radio, further illustrated the justifications for broadcasters to be exempted from reproduction fees. He claimed that, because private broadcasters contributed $51 million to marketing strategies to help new artists to launch their career, the statutory requirement to pay copyright royalties for broadcasting is unfair. Similarly, Guy Banville, a radio consultant from Quebec, said that the use of digital media has resulted in an increase in cost in radio programming when radio stations invested in these new technologies. He claimed that “any increase in royalty will mean an exit from the radio networks in Quebec.”

Ross Davies, Vice-President of Operations at Haliburton Broadcasting Group Inc., pointed out that the cost of copyright has gone up 500% since 2001, which is posing a danger to the business. He said that the exemption of the reproduction tariff must be granted to radio station because local radio is the most influential matter to make direct contributions and nurture new artists,. He further noted that his company supported, financially, many well known Canadian activities including the Canadian Music Week and the Winnipeg Jazz Festival.

Paul Larche, owner and president of Larche communications , approach this issue from a historical perspective. Traditionally, music industry sends radio broadcasters a copy of their music and no fee was ever paid by the broadcasters to obtain that copy. When music is being transferred on servers, the simple “upload” is then identified as a “copyright event” that is valued at $21 million by the Copyright Board of Canada in June 2010. He said that, because radio stations are making three copyright payments to simply accept an invitation to play their song, the statutory requirement is simply unfair. Furthermore, he noted that artists are often unaware of such copyright payments as most money goes outside of Canada to international companies.

Further hearings on Bill C-32 were held on March 8th and 10th; details will be covered later on IP Osgoode. Stay tuned!