Canadian arts groups lobbying over copyright bill

Canadian arts and culture groups are increasingly speaking out against the Canadian government's proposed copyright bill, Bill C-32, saying content creators are getting the short end of the stick.
November 18, 2010

As Canadian members of parliament debate the government’s proposed copyright bill, Bill C-32, a Quebec lobby group representing thirteen arts and culture groups has launched a public campaign to fight for changes to the controversial legislation, which has passed its second reading and is set to go before a legislative committee for further study later this month.

‘Bill C-32 engenders inequality between consumers and creators. It has essentially factored content creators out of the equation,’ said Michel Beauchemin, the spokesperson for DAMIC, during an information meeting on Tuesday at a downtown Montreal hotel. DAMIC represents 50,000 creators and cultural workers, and among its members are the province’s largest actors union, Union des artistes (UDA), as well as the TV and film writers’ association, SARTEC, and copyright monitoring groups such as COPIBEC, ARTISTI and SODRAC.

DAMIC and other groups such as ACTRA – which was lobbying for changes to Bill C-32 on Parliament Hill Tuesday – want Bill C-32 to extend Canada’s private copy levy to all storage media, a proposal rejected by the government as a tax on consumers. Right now consumers pay a levy when they buy a blank CD, but not when they buy a hard drive, iPod, smart phone or DVR.

Because Bill C-32 will officially legalize many well-established consumer practices, such as recording TV programs or downloading a CD onto a digital player, organizations such as DAMIC believe extending the private copy levy to other storage media will help ensure that creators will be fairly compensated when consumers share their works.

But the government, which refers to the proposed levy as ‘an iPod tax’ says creators will be protected because content providers will be able to put digital locks on content. Artists groups maintain that digital locks will ultimately be broken by hackers, and consumers groups view them as potentially trumping the new rights consumers are acquiring under the bill.

‘The Bill proposes to expand uses which will ultimately undermine our ability to earn a living as an artist,’ says Writers’ Guild of Canada’s executive director Maureen Parker. ‘Under this new Bill a person could potentially download a copy of [CBC comedy] Being Erica and share it with their friends. We want consumers to enjoy our works in all kinds of formats but we have to be compensated for these additional uses. The royalty streams that we used to obtain from DVDs no longer exist, so we need to be compensated for content that will be downloaded from the Internet and shared.’

The government is expected to name an all-party committee this week that will consider amendments to the bill.

From Playback Daily

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.