CRIA Falling Apart

The CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association) is going through hard times.

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

It seems as though after several bold steps failed, the industry is paying the price for it. It may explain why their last press release was published on March 15.

The Sam Bulte incident last year may have kicked off the beginning of the Record industry troubles. As a result, an MP lost her seat and possibly her career. The incident was sparked shortly after the debate over two controversial reform bills ended.

The CRIA then conducted a study with Pollara. The CRIA then claimed that file-sharing is the reason for lost sales. The claims were then tarnished when the full report was publicly released. Michael Geist criticised the CRIA’s claims. To his surprise, Pollara responded, defending the CRIA’s interpretation. Michael Geist then responded to the criticism. Pollara’s move may have backfired as it fuelled speculation about connections between the polling firm and the CRIA.

CRIA’s Graham Henderson said that he would end the private copying levy. It’s a move that would have many effects. The largest effect is the private copying collectives who receive the funds. One effect is the legal consequence of CD burning should the levy be removed. At the same time, Graham Henderson said “we don’t want a private copying levy that, in effect, sanctions online theft.” Many critics point out that this is confirmation that the private copying levy also applies to file-sharing.

The damage done by the two incidents ran far deeper then a PR setback. Shortly after, 6 of Canada’s leading record labels quit the CRIA. According to the article, “(CRIA is) looking out for their best interest, and their best interest is multinationals that are not Canadian,” said Ric Arboit, president of Vancouver-based Nettwerk Records. Nettwerk is known for top Canadian artists (such as Sum 41, Swollen Members and Avril Lavign), Save the Music Fan and funding the defence of an RIAA lawsuit. Nettwerk Records, Aquarius Records, the Children’s Group, Linus Entertainment, Anthem Records and True North Records (all class “B” labels) all quit with a letter that states, “It has become increasingly clear over the past few months that CRIA’s position on several important music industry issues are not aligned with our best interests as independent recording companies”.

The actions drew concern from the Copyright Board. According to Howard Knopf, a lawyer who defended against the CRIA, “The Board then did something quite interesting. Apparently out of concern for the Indies, it ordered CRIA to send notices to the Canadian Indies in the following language: “CRIA recently opted to change the scope of its representation of its members’ interests in the forthcoming proceedings before the Copyright Board dealing with CSI’ s proposed tariff for the reproduction of musical works by online music services. Subsequently, the Board ordered CRIA to advise you of the following:

1) In these proceedings CRIA has chosen to act only on behalf of (name of each member that CRIA represents).
2) As a result, CRIA will not be allowed to advance any argument or lead any evidence that relates to your situation in particular, or to the situation of any other member of CRIA that CRIA does not represent in these proceedings generally.”” The CRIA strongly opposed this.

Not only is the CRIA suffering a tremendous PR blow, but are also suffering commercial blows as well. One may wonder just how Canadian the CRIA is after so much Canadian music labels left. Michael Geist comments how the C is being removed from the CRIA. He even cites these incidents while talking about Canada’s ‘cultural deficit’.

With so much ailing the CRIA, it likely is the reason why the CRIA has been so quiet lately on the PR front. It’s likely that the CRIA can’t do much except go quiet and heal from this multiple disaster. Perhaps the last thing the CRIA wants to hear is ‘MC Lars – Download This Song’ at this point in time.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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