ACTRA Member Dismayed Over ACTRA Stance on Copyright Reform

There is no shortage of coverage on Canada’s new copyright reform. While ACTRA called Canada’s DMCA a ‘good first step’, a member seems to be dismayed by the stance, let alone the copyright reform bill.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

When Copyright reform hit Canada and it was discovered to be serving only a few multinational interests, CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association), an organization long seen as merely an arm of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) in Canada after major Canadian record labels left them over CRIA’s views on the previous copyright reform legislation was quick to applaud the latest copyright reform by the current Conservative government.

One of the groups that CRIA showed off was a group known as ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) who, in a press release, reports about strikes over being paid – namely in new media or online revenues. So, some how, the organization that has fought against mainly foreign interests over unfair wages is still all for letting them take on overwhelming new powers against the Canadian consumer base at large through copyright reform. One ACTRA member has recently made serious concerns publicly known recently.

“A few months ago, I wrote a long open letter to ACTRA (a union to which I belong as a performer),” writes Jason Chesworth of Broadcast This, “questioned the union’s position which overwhelmingly supports changes to the Copyright Act that they believe will enrich the finances of their membership. I wholeheartedly disagree with ACTRA…in fact…I believe that the proposed changes will become a major detriment to artists trying to create content while protecting only those at the top (read: broadcasters, big business and their lobby groups as well as internet service providers).”

Other highlights:

ACTRA went on strike over “new media”…so, why are they now practically handing new media over to those we struck against?!

It should be noted that all of this occurred *before* the proposed changes were made public. As soon as the changes to Bill C-61 were public knowledge, I made a bee-line over to the ACTRA website and (though not surprised at all), was thoroughly dismayed by Stephen Waddell’s (Exec. Director of ACTRA), statement that “vocal opponents of this Bill will characterize it as mimicking what’s already been done in the U.S., but that’s oversimplifying things.”

While ACTRA maintains that they are *not* in the pocket of big business, it’s hard to accept the idea that we can be (as a union), members of a lobby group with big business and still represent the interests of artists. To put a finer point on it: how can a union represent interests that aren’t heard? Again, forgive me, but…it makes me wonder who is advising the executive at ACTRA on these matters. How can ACTRA continue to bash our collective heads against the brick wall of government (censorship, arts funding) and keep coming up empty-handed, AND THEN – hand copyright and intellectual property control over to the very people that don’t want to pay us anything for our work.

What’s most fascinating about the post is that it highlights possibly a rather dark side to the copyright industry – buying copyright reform support. It also puts into serious question how sincere the support for the current iteration of copyright reform legislation as highlighted by CRIA really is. Obviously, when record labels like Nettwerk broke away from CRIA over copyright legislation under the previous Liberal government, many questioned how Canadian CRIA really was in the first place since the so-called A-list (the big four record labels) were allegedly trumped by the B-list labels (Nettwerk, etc. with big acts like Bare Naked Ladies, Sum 41, etc.)

Judging by the reaction from the ACTRA member, the kind of move as seen by Canadian record labels leaving CRIA over simply listening to international interests may be only the tip of the iceberg. Now that CRIA is relying heavily on other big acronyms (likely due to the dramatic fallout in 2005), it seems as though that kind of dissent may spread beyond Canadian record labels from within other organizations.

Also worth noting is Chesworth’s complete debunking of ACTRA’s Myths and Facts about Canada’s DMCA.

Hat tip: Michael Geist

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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