Graham Henderson: Canada needs copyright rules that foster digital music market
By Graham Henderson
As consultations proceed on Copyright Act reforms, there is broad agreement on a couple of the key objectives: spurring Canada’s innovation-based economy and fostering an on-line marketplace that is rich in choices for consumers and incentives for creators.
But as Canada debates how best to achieve those objectives, our international trading partners have raced into action and are pulling ahead. Take digital music, for example. Americans purchase more than twice as much digital music as Canadians on a per capita basis.
In jurisdictions like Sweden and the U.K., legal digital sales are flourishing and illegal behaviour has plunged. Shortly after Sweden enacted a new antipiracy law this spring, Internet traffic there fell by at least one-third and digital music sales, according to one report, doubled.
Innovative digital music models like Spotify and Nokia’s Comes With Music are delivering an array of new choices and ways to legitimately enjoy and experience music to consumers all over the world. New business models are coming on line every day. But not in Canada. Here, effectively the only choice for on-line music is between iTunes and illegal.
What is behind this international digital divide? The answer is marketplace rules that encourage innovation and investment. Unlike Canada, our leading trading partners have long since enacted copyright reforms that are consistent with the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization Internet treaties. In fact, many of them are now going beyond WIPO recommendations.
Opponents of change say that implementation of the WIPO treaties is bad for innovation and consumers. They argue that Canada will turn into a “police state”, iPods will be seized at the border, researchers will be jailed without trial, and creativity, culture, and personal property will be “locked down”.
But where is the evidence for this? International experience proves it false. If WIPO implementation truly discouraged innovation, Canada would be sprinting ahead of, rather than lagging, innovative digital markets in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. Instead, we see that, far from stifling innovation and consumer choice, WIPO drives it.
As Canada’s trading partners advance, the need for digital copyright reform has become urgent. We’re in a 100-metre dash where the competition has a 20-metre head start. To catch up, we need to move fast. And we are going to have to run a very smart race.
We need to set some rules of the road—so Canadians can know clearly the difference between legitimate and illegitimate on-line products and practices. We need to protect creators’ livelihoods—the fruit of their creativity, hard work, and financial investment.
Canadian culture is suffering from Canada’s failure to modernize its copyright rules. Unrestrained file sharing—the taking of other people’s property without compensation—means there is far less money available to invest in Canadian artist development, nurturing, and promotion.
We are reaping the bitter harvest of inaction. In last year’s Billboard Top 30, there were only three Canadian artists. That compares with an average of eight Canadians in the previous five years. Sadly, in music today, after years of great Canadian acts reaching new heights—from Joni Mitchell to Alanis Morissette—Canada is today punching below its weight. We can and should do much better.
As the copyright consultations proceed, I urge Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore to heed the calls of ACTRA and AFM—the largest groups representing Canadian artists—for WIPO-compliant rules to stop the theft of their work. I urge Industry Minister Tony Clement to consider that, in this century of innovation, the future rests with products of the mind, and to bear in mind that the foundation of these products is intellectual property.
If Canada is to compete at the forefront of this new world, we need to cultivate and protect intellectual property in a free market facilitated by reasonable, common sense rules—rules encoded in WIPO, and that have been proven and stood the test of time in foreign markets.
A legitimate marketplace based on clear digital rules will deliver broad benefits for all—not just Canadian culture, music artists, and the music industry, but also the network managers, whose systems today are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of illegitimate traffic, and most fundamentally for Canadian consumers, who will gain a wide array of choices in a dynamic digital marketplace.
Graham Henderson is the president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association.