Hell Freezes Over: Music Canada Sides With Digital Rights Advocates on Bill C-11 Regulating User Generated Content

This never happens: Music Canada has sided with digital rights advocates on something. Specifically, they agree that Bill C-11 regulates user generated content.

Canada’s RIAA, Music Canada, has spoken out on Bill C-11. They have done what some might have thought impossible: taking a position that sides with digital rights advocates.

For more than a decade, major record labels have been pretty much the polar opposite of digital rights advocates. In the past, they pushed for copyright term extension, mass file-sharing lawsuits, DRM, three strikes laws, and Internet censorship among other things. Digital rights advocates have invariably been pushing for the opposite.

In the Bill C-11 debate, we’ve already seen unlikely allies. The big eyebrow raising one is seeing life-long NDP supporters siding with the Conservative party to condemn the legislation. This as the NDP continues to burn through their credibility and flip flop to support the legislation.

Now, we are seeing another, and arguably, more unlikely allies in this fight: Music Canada and digital rights advocates. Music Canada has sided with digital rights advocates and said that Bill C-11 regulates user generated content:

In a vacuum, if we were asked what Music Canada’s position might be in all of this, we would just assume that they would parrot the same misinformation about Bill C-11 and be perfectly content with the legislation. This given their anti-technology stances in the past.

If we were asked what their position should be, we would say that they should be against this legislation. The reasons are pretty easy to deduce. Over the years, major record labels have increasingly relied on large online platforms to promote and earn revenue. Whether this is YouTube, Spotify, or another platform. Bill C-11 has, all along, envisioned that the Internet is nothing more than another broadcast cable TV station. So, the government wants to regulate it accordingly with destructive cancon rules.

The problem is, music is a poor fit to all of this. This goes back to when we examined the CRTC cancon rules about what qualifies. If a music video was officially released on YouTube, chances are, it didn’t really follow cancon rules. As a result, their content would risk being demoted in Canada. Going through the current catalogue, trying to add the bureaucratic rules to certify it as cancon would add expense to the production process that wasn’t there before. What’s more, if the major record labels were to try and do this with their back catalogue, something that they heavily promote, it would be a nightmare to even think about trying to get that content certified. Add in lyric videos or official audio video’s and it would almost feel like a lost cause.

Further, given the fact that Bill C-11 goes beyond video’s and can regulate almost anything including podcasts and video games, there is a real risk that any platform they happen to be on will get hit with these same rules. How exactly do you certify a music track using the CRTC cancon rules? You simply don’t. After all, chances are, those songs had MAPL rules in mind when being produced, not broadcasting rules. Since these songs were posted with generating revenue in mind, they easily fall within the scope of Bill C-11.

If I was a major record label, I wouldn’t exactly be thrilled with the prospect of a law that both increases expenses and decreases revenue after. I’d be ringing up politician’s shouting, “what do you think you’re doing???”

Invariably, even when positions seem to go against the interests of even major record labels, we often see them take the traditional anti-technology stance anyway. So, that’s why we figured they would be for this one. To our genuine surprise, that actually didn’t happen.

As a result, you can’t help but think that you know a bill is bad when you get both digital rights advocates and major record labels opposing this aspect of the legislation. Obviously, we don’t know the full position of Music Canada at this stage, however, if they are raising the alarm about how this regulates user generated content, it’s a safe bet that they aren’t exactly thrilled. After all, why openly say things like this if you are supportive of the legislation?

At any rate, this is a very surprising, though welcome, development in the debate.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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