SOCAN Tries To Keep Its Copyright Consultation Submission Offline And Secret, But Fails

from the what's-there-to-be-embarrassed-about?-oh...-pretty-much-everything dept

We were just talking about how SOCAN, the Canadian copyright collection society, was going after gymnastics clubs for kids using music in their practice routines. Now they’re getting some well-deserved attention for other antics. Michael Geist explains how SOCAN tried to keep its submission to the government copyright consultation secret. The organization apparently requested that its submission not be posted online, even though that was part of the consultation process. The government made it available anyways, but only by email upon request. Of course, it’s now available online elsewhere [PDF].

SOCAN’s recommendations aren’t surprising. They call for a making available right (article 22 of the submission), a broadening of the private copying levy (article 30), anti-circumvention provisions (55-56), notice-and-takedown (59), copyright term extension (60), and no further exceptions to copyright (34, 48). But rather than outright declaring war on consumers, they copy the language (poorly) of those seeking more effective copyright reform. For example, they claim that the “rights of users and creators” are already “balanced” because “the Copyright Board of Canada provides a fair mechanism to set the royalty” (45) — someone had better tell the gymnastic clubs! Another great example: They want to expand the private copying tax levy to digital audio players so that it’s “technologically neutral.” (11) No word on when they’ll want it to apply to hard drives in general. SOCAN also repeats the ridiculous argument from the Toronto copyright townhall that “unwarranted” fair dealing provisions would mean asking creators to “work for nothing:”

Copyright amendments must not set up unwarranted exemptions, or otherwise limit the copyright royalties paid… If you deprive SOCAN’s members of copyright royalties, you are basically asking over 35,000 Canadian individuals to take risks and work for nothing. That’s not realistic, and it’s not fair. (34-35)

It’s just laughable to suggest that more flexible fair dealing (i.e., something like the American concept of fair use) would mean artists not getting paid. Do artists “work for nothing” in the U.S.? Though, it should be no surprise from an organization that claims that, if you use a Creative Commons license, you “won’t get paid” and your work may become devalued. To a collection society, getting paid can only mean royalties, and the value of music can only mean… well, royalties.

Best of all, they seem nervous about Industry Minister Tony Clement, who’s given some indication that he wants to craft forward thinking policies. SOCAN recommends that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage have sole responsibility for copyright reform (article 66). The Heritage committee is involved in the process, but as Geist points out, this recommendation betrays some discomfort with Clement and the Industry Committee, since the Copyright Act clearly grants the Minister of Industry responsibility for copyright. So, first, we get a laundry list of maximalist demands using the language of “balanced” copyright reform, then a suggestion to ignore the Copyright Act and exclude the ministry they’re not comfortable with (you know, the one focusing on the economic concerns) from having any responsibility in reform? No wonder they wanted to keep the submission secret.

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Comments on “SOCAN Tries To Keep Its Copyright Consultation Submission Offline And Secret, But Fails”

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21 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Blaise,

While “They claim that the “rights of users and creators” are already “balanced” because “the Copyright Board of Canada provides a fair mechanism to set the royalty””, it is also clear that there are so many exemptions to the process that it isn’t completely fair.

At this point, the rights are heavily stacked in favor of the users, who can copy, share, and trade with impunity, without any requirement to pay for the products they enjoy. There is no simple mechanism in Canada do deal with piracy, illegal file trading, or many other issues that are rapidly taking over the music and movie fields.

They aren’t being maximalists, they are just trying to pull the pendulum back nearer the middle.

Kaden (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“the rights are heavily stacked in favor of the users, who can copy, share, and trade with impunity, without any requirement to pay for the products they enjoy”

…Aside from the usurious blank media levy we’ve all been paying since the 1980s, regardless of whether said blank media was in fact used to record ‘product’.

Gawd, you ACs don’t even bother trying anymore, do you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Says the copyright maximalist. Do you honestly want to know where the middle is? Well, copyright, in Canada, lasts for the length of the artist’s life + 50 years. So if we pull the “pendulum” closer to the middle we see copyright only lasting for half of the artist’s life + 25 years.

Actually that does sound fair.

A copyright abolishionist/destructionalist agreeing with a copyright maximalist/creationist?

Well color me surprised!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m sorry but when discussing the present it is important not to bring up trends that might predict where the future may be heading.

The laws must stay exactly as they are, regardless of hypothetical scenarios based on extrapolated data from the past to the present.

Sure, not everyone has a super-copying machine in their pockets right now but give a few years. Then everyone will. And if they “steal” based on an accusation then they should have their super-copying machine taken away from them. By the rights holder.

Yeah, that sounds totally fair.

Blaise Alleyne (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Did you see the section about increasing copyright? I think it was article 62 IIRC… SOCAN argued that we need a longer copyright term because of “human longevity… people live longer.”

Clearly, as human longevity approaches infinity, so too should copyright. After all, a songwriter owns her songs.

Blaise Alleyne (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Songwriters don’t OWN their songs (nice strawman), they own the exclusive rights to their work for a period of time as set by law.”

Yes… that’s the point.

“Nice try, but you need to learn from your boss how to be sarcastic better, you pretty much failed.”

Um… you need to talk to songwriters and people in the music industry more. I was just repeating an argument I received yesterday on a folk music mailing list. It’s an argument used all the time by lots of songwriters and musicians (and by record industry execs when they try to represent songwriters and musicians).

There was no imagination in my comment. I was just relaying what I’ve heard a million times from friends and acquaintances.

Blaise Alleyne (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“At this point, the rights are heavily stacked in favor of the users, who can copy, share, and trade with impunity, without any requirement to pay for the products they enjoy.”

There’s a difference between paying for products you enjoy (i.e. legally acquiring musical recordings, whether paid or not really) and paying for the enjoyment of products. SOCAN, as a collection society, is concerned with the latter. They aren’t administering rights so that people can pay when they acquire goods, they’re collecting a toll for the use of those goods.

When we’re talking about paying for the privilege of dancing (see Tariff 8 [PDF] or the gymnastic clubs story), or playing music to your horses, yeah, there had better be a lot of exemptions, otherwise it gets pretty ridiculous pretty quickly.

“There is no simple mechanism in Canada to deal with piracy, illegal file trading, or many other issues that are rapidly taking over the music and movie fields.

They aren’t being maximalists, they are just trying to pull the pendulum back nearer the middle.”

And SOCAN’s proposals to deal with those issues are maximalist. That is, their response is more copyright restrictions. They want to make it illegal to rip your DVDs to your computer, or to copy and paste from a DRMed eBook, implement a one-strike-and-your-out notice-and-takedown provision with a presumption of guilty until proven innocent, and they oppose an expansion of fair dealing to cover time/format shifting or forms of artistic expression like parody/satire/remix… yet they want to increase the levies we pay.

Why should we pay more levies if we get less rights?

If we’re expected to pay an iPod levy all of the sudden, to supposedly account for private copying, they why are all these other restrictions on private copying being suggested at the same time?

The Songwriters Association of Canada wants a levy on ISP connections… but in place of draconian measures to counter “piracy.” They aren’t asking for legal tools to go after illegal file sharers; they want to make it legal. SOCAN, on the other hand, wants more draconian measures while increasing levies at the same time. That’s pretty maximalist.

Also, the laughable “fair use would mean working for nothing” statement is also indicative of maximalism. It’s not just the notion that royalty streams would dry up with more flexible fair dealing that’s absurd, but the idea that the only value in music is in royalties.

Anything that reduces royalties is bad, anything that increases them is good. The more royalties, the better. That’s a maximalist position.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: copyright is nt ownership

“the green party the only party to actually have a term set is 12 years

sounds reasonable to me”

Not to me.

The problem is that trying to police copyright necessarily involves a lot of intrusion. I don’t think copyright is worth that. Hell, look at all the creative work (mashups/AMVs/fanfilms etc) that are done DESPITE copyrights. Imagine what would unfold if we got rid of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Put everybody in jail.

I think the pro-copyright crowd are right.

People who watch TV for free and listen to radio for free should be jailed.

Those freeloaders that never pay anything don’t deserve to see the light of day and there is a lot of them.

According to U.S. stimates 100% of households in America have TV and radio. This is an absurd. Artists don’t see a dime from these people and are enjoying all for free.

LoL

Dean Hajas (user link) says:

Canadian Copyright & Socan confusion

Canadian copyright is fictitious and does not “subsist” even when a creator registers with CIPO the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. CIPO does not take an audio sample nor a title of your works at point of paying $50 CDN for registration.

We are also told by CIPO we are responsible for Canada’s our own intellectual properties both domestically and internationally. I’m the event we identify an infringement what exactly do creators have in their hands to prove ownership …? Nothing. So while I appreciate Michael Geist and his passion for music and Copyright Law, he and others like him Barry Sookman of McCarthy Tetrault have not influenced a course of Action identifying the very scheme of Canada to separate creators from their ownership of their creations.

The Midic industry and its Governabce require a complete overhaul putting in place actaual advocates for creators not just the big 3 record labels and agencies of administration.

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