Saturday, November 17, 2007

Canada plans copyright reform

The Canadian government looks set to bring forward "copyright protection" measures in the next few weeks designed to try and shore up unsustainable business models.

The Industry Canada spokesperson outlined the intentions:

"Canada's Copyright Act needs to be reformed to respond to the challenges of the digital age," said [Caroline Grondin]. "New protections proposed for the benefit of rights holders will seek to address online infringement as well as create a legal framework that encourages the rollout, by rights holders, of new business models."

You might wonder why copyright protection should be in the realm of the industry ministry rather than the department which deals with culture; you might also spot that Grondin talks about rights holders and business models rather than artists and art.

The RIAA client organistaion north of the border at least remembers to pay lip service to the people who actually make the music:
Graham Henderson, president of labels body the Canadian Recording Industry Assn. (CRIA), said the legislation will demonstrate the country's commitment to protecting its songwriters and musicians.

"Is it going to replace our lost revenue every year? Of course not," Henderson said. "But it is a start. Right now, our big problem is that digital sales aren't replacing lost physical sales. A new Copyright Act would help foster new digital business models that haven't appeared in Canada because of piracy."

It's not entirely clear why Henderson believes that simply because companies are no longer able to sell product in a changed market that the correct response would be to alter the law. Nor can he point to any songs which haven't been written because Canadian musicians are worried about piracy.

Of course, the CRIA points to all its losses:
The music industry has long blamed the existing Copyright Act for the proliferation of file sharing and the long-term decline in CD sales, with shipments dropping a further 19 percent year on year in 2007 through August (the most recent figures available), according to the CRIA.

Leaving aside the question of how far that fall can be put down to shifts in consumer spending patterns not related to the availability of music online - such as, for example, the rising interest rate in Canada and having to spend more cash on food and heating leaving less money for entertainment purchases - will new laws actually help? After all, in the US, there's the DCMA and yet, despite the legislation, CD sales fell even faster than they did in Canada.

The only difference the new legislation will make is that it'll criminalise some behaviour with laws that are virtually unenforceable. It's not going to "replace lost revenue" because nothing is going to. The CRIA should be helping its members adjust to a new world, not try to protect the old one.