Craig Nobbs: Fair copyright reform is needed in Canada

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      Before you get into this, if you’re in a public place, take a quick look around and see if you notice anyone listening to music. Chances are you’ll have seen someone with the tell-tale cord coming up from their jacket. Heck, there’s a good chance that you have one on you right now as you’re reading this, and that’s okay.

      Well, it’s okay for now, but I’ll get to that in a moment. At this moment, listening to music on an MP3 player is perfectly legal. Even if you’re “a pirate” and didn’t so much as pay for your music as download it for free, that’s okay too.

      You see, there was a provision added to the Canadian Copyright Act in 1997 that placed a levy on all recordable media. Along with this levy came an additional provision that allows individuals to make copies of “sound recordings” (e.g. music) for their own private, non-commercial use.

      That’s the great part. Now for the bad news.

      Over the past eight years or so, there have been some concerted efforts made by the Canadian Recording Industry Association, record labels, and other lobbyists for changes to get rid of that “loophole”.

      The most recent attempt, Bill C-32, was to bring the Copyright Act up to par with today’s technologies. Unfortunately it had two nasty provisions that essentially negated all of the progress the rest of the bill would have made.

      The first provision was to prohibit the circumvention of “technical protection measures” which trumped all other provisions of Canada’s fair dealing clauses within the act. The second was to prohibit the removal of any digital rights management from digital files.

      If it came to pass, you would be restricted to what the record companies allowed you to do with your music. Fortunately, the federal election was called and all bills that were in for readings were stopped dead in their tracks and killed.

      I wish that was the end of it, but if you recall I did mention that were “some concerted efforts”, meaning more than one. In fact, there have been two bills and a full blown trade agreement (Google “ACTA”) that have attempted to throw Canadian-style copyright out the window in the past few years alone.

      There is an unfortunate side to this though. Artists deserve to get paid for their work. I believe that an artist has the right to be paid for their work if they choose to. However, the way that the system is currently setup is that proceeds that are collected from the levy are distributed based upon commercial radio airplay and commercial sales samples.

      All music that is played on air through college radio stations and any independent sales are ignored when figuring out who gets what money. What this means is that only the biggest artists and bands make money while all of the independent groups get nada.

      It’s no small amount either. The Canadian Private Copying Collective is in charge of collection and distributing the levy money. They have collected over $254 million (to June 2010) and distributed $184 million of it to record companies, publishers, song writers, and artists since they started collecting in 2003.

      I know that this one little op-ed won’t change much, but it’s not meant to. It’s meant to get you thinking about the current state of copyright in Canada.

      Hopefully you’ll see that change is needed and that both Canadian artists and consumers need to be fairly represented.

      If you would like more information about this, please visit our party website. Feel free to join in the forums and post questions.

      Craig Nobbs is the Pirate Party of Canada candidate for Langley.




      Apr 12, 2011 at 9:45pm

      Better than Harper. If I lived in a Pirate riding, they'd have my vote.


      Apr 13, 2011 at 5:33am

      So many people are so quick to vilify DRM but without it we wouldn't have all kinds of innovative options as consumers of culture - subscription services for music, e-book library loans through your kobo etc. These are the future - high quality, high convenience services that meet consumer needs. In Europe where copyright laws are more robust and meet the international standards that Canada should meet, there are dozens of legal music services on all kinds of platforms at all kinds of prices. They rely on DRM. We need that kind of consumer choice here in Canada.

      Doug Sanderson

      Apr 13, 2011 at 7:58am

      So is the Pirate Party in favour of extending the levy to blank media (ie Ipods)?


      Apr 13, 2011 at 11:10am

      re ArtistsRock

      So without DRM we couldn't have "e-book library loans through your kobo"? Oh heavens no! What on earth would we do without whatever the hell that is?


      Apr 13, 2011 at 4:17pm

      @ Artists Rock
      It sounds like you are trying to claim DRM as a feature, If something claims to free my entertainment and enable consumer choice, then that’s what it should be expected to do. Thats certainly not what happens. DRM means i have to re-purchase things i have already simply because I want to use it on a different platform.It installs root kits ( SONY), it makes me not able to play movies i legally bought in Europe in Canada. It makes me have 3 different ebook readers to read all the content I want.Sure I've got lots of choices but I'm paying for every one of them again and again.DRM does only one thing and that's limit choices and stagnate development by reducing opportunity.

      Russell McORmond

      Apr 14, 2011 at 6:52am


      Far too many people promote DRM without understanding the underlying technology. Misunderstood and misapplied technological measures can harm copyright holders as much if not more than copyright infringement can. I invite you to watch/read/etc the presentation I do on this topic at (most recently for the C-32 committee) so you will have the basics.

      These new ways to allow audiences to pay for content are necessary and important, but are not dependent on DRM. In fact, DRM gets in the way of people paying -- it reduces sales, not increases. It allows technology companies to circumvent the fairness of existing laws, which is also very harmful to the interests of creators.

      As to the music levy, I've posed more at -- including the misinformation being spread by the Conservatives with their so-called "iPod tax".