Canadian Songwriters Demand Legalization of P2P

Canada’s copyright debate is headed to a boiling point.

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

What the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association) has demanded, on behalf of artists, that people who download unauthorized music face penalties similar to that of the United States. Unfortunately for the CRIA, the paradox in their demands has been the simple fact that the artists themselves are demanding the exact opposite. Not only do they say they don’t want to litigate music fans, but they also say that file-sharing should be legalized.

The Songwriters Association of Canada has put forth a proposal on a system that would allow anyone to download music for free legally while still compensating artists. Within the proposal is a system that suggests that there be a five dollar fee for every internet service provider. The money would then go to the respective rights holders as compensation – similar to that of a blank media levy.

Within the file-sharing debate, compensating artists has always been a sore issue. In the mean time, it seems that the blank media levy on CDs and DVDs also has been a sore spot. An unofficial argument has been floating around for some time that says that because Canadians pay a blank media levy to entities like the CRIA, copying music with little legal consequence gives quasi-legitimacy to its source – typically file-sharing networks. This argument has moved the CRIA to do everything possible to strike down the levy because they don’t agree with the argument. Whether or not this is because it stands in the way of potentially filing lawsuits against copyright infringement is a matter to be debated. At this point in time, the CRIA has been unable to strike down the levy.

In the mean time, it appears as though the proposal has gained traction among other artists. The Canadian Music Creators Coalition, who represents many of the major musical acts within Canada, have issued a response.

“This is the first progressive proposal we’ve seen in Canada to address file-sharing,” said Andrew Cash, CMCC spokesperson. “It’s telling that creators, the people who actually make the music being shared, are the people showing leadership and pushing for a made-in-Canada approach to file-sharing. We can only hope that the Canadian government will follow the Songwriters’ lead and begin exploring alternatives to the failed ‘locks, lawsuits and lobbying’ strategy of the major labels.”

“We don’t know if the Songwriters have all the answers,” states CMCC member Steven Page, “but we do know that this proposal moves in the right direction. The Songwriters’ proposal offers tremendous value to both consumers and rights-holders. The Songwriters have given us the framework to come together to talk about digital music. The CMCC wholeheartedly endorses the Songwriters’ efforts, and looks forward to joining all Canadian stakeholders in considering the merits of this proposal.”

It is suggested that such a proposal might not be heard given the current political climate. Many experts including Michael Geist have not only concluded that a Canadian version of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that is within the laws of the United States is on the way, but have voiced a number of tough questions as well. The Canadian government has officially announced that the copyright reform bill is coming on December 10.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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