Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Copyright Bill Would Cost Songwriters $35 Million a Year

If the Harper government's proposed copyright legislation, Bill C-32, were to pass, it would reduce by $34.9 million the revenues songwriters and music publishers earn from licensing the right to reproduce songs. The lost revenue would represent 45% of the annual royalties collected by CMRRA-SODRAC Inc. (CSI), which collects royalties for the reproduction of songs.

The changes proposed by the government would allow broadcasters to copy music for use in programming their increasingly automated stations and networks without permission from, or payment to, songwriters or music copyright owners.

In testimony today, CSI President David Basskin, told the Legislative Committee examining Bill C-32: "They'll tell you the copies broadcasters make are worthless. That's nonsense. Expert evidence, accepted by the Copyright Board of Canada, extensively documents the benefits commercial radio broadcasters receive. For instance, through 'voice tracking', broadcasters can produce a four-hour program in 20 or 30 minutes."

Last week, commercial radio broadcasters told the Committee that current music royalty rates are unreasonable and unsustainable. CSI provided evidence to the Committee today that such stations pay all copyright owners, including CSI, just 5.7% of their revenue, despite the fact that music makes up 80% of their programming. They also provided evidence that, in 2009, despite a severe recession, their pre-tax profit margin was 21.2%.

CSI told the Legislative Committee that other provisions in Bill C-32 would also undermine the rights of its members. Failure to modernize the existing private copying provisions would result in the rapid disappearance of private copying revenues. The Bill also authorizes the making of uncompensated "technological reproductions", multiple backup copies, and the distribution of user-generated content through profitable commercial intermediaries like YouTube.

"Modernizing the Copyright Act should aim to create a stable, innovation-friendly environment without eliminating existing or potential royalty sources for creators," said CSI's Vice-President, Alain Lauzon. "The current law is technologically neutral and this principle should not be called into question. What constitutes copying or reproduction today should remain so as technologies continue to evolve."

CSI is a joint venture of the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency Limited (CMRRA) and the Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada (SODRAC). CMRRA and SODRAC represent the reproduction rights of the authors and publishers of more than 90% of the musical works sold or broadcast in Canada.

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