Major Labels Accused Of $6 Billion Worth Of Copyright Infringement In Canada

from the oops dept

The major labels and their friends like to throw around huge numbers of "damages" when it comes to copyright infringement. But how about when they're on the receiving end of a copyright infringement lawsuit. Up in Canada, there's a class action lawsuit against the Canadian divisions of all of the major record labels, suggesting that the labels have infringed on the copyrights of artists to the tune of $6 billion (Updated: the original math was off, it's actually $6 billion, not $60). As Michael Geist explains:
The claims arise from a longstanding practice of the recording industry in Canada, described in the lawsuit as "exploit now, pay later if at all." It involves the use of works that are often included in compilation CDs (ie. the top dance tracks of 2009) or live recordings. The record labels create, press, distribute, and sell the CDs, but do not obtain the necessary copyright licences.

Instead, the names of the songs on the CDs are placed on a "pending list", which signifies that approval and payment is pending. The pending list dates back to the late 1980s, when Canada changed its copyright law by replacing a compulsory licence with the need for specific authorization for each use. It is perhaps better characterized as a copyright infringement admission list, however, since for each use of the work, the record label openly admits that it has not obtained copyright permission and not paid any royalty or fee.

Over the years, the size of the pending list has grown dramatically, now containing over 300,000 songs. From Beyonce to Bruce Springsteen, the artists waiting for payment are far from obscure, as thousands of Canadian and foreign artists have seen their copyrights used without permission and payment.
And yet, amazingly, the record labels -- these "strong defenders" of the importance of copyright and paying for every use -- somehow have decided that it makes no sense to pay this bill. The list itself details about $50 million in unpaid royalties that are owed, often to well known musicians who it would be quite easy for the industry to find and pay up. As for the $6 billion number? Well, the class action lawsuit that's been filed seeks statutory damages starting at $20,000 per infringement and going up from there. Given that these same record labels have been defending those same (or, similar, in the US, at least) statutory rates for infringement, you have to wonder how they can realistically claim that those statutory rates shouldn't apply to themselves as well.

Once again, though, we're seeing what's really happening. The record labels are copyright defenders only when they profit unfairly from it. When they can screw over others via ignoring copyright, they have no problem doing so.

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  1. identicon
    Doctor Strange, 8 Dec 2009 @ 12:52am

    So putting people in jail is wrong unless you put them in jail for doing something wrong. So, according to you, two wrongs make a right unless you hold the belief that no one should ever go to jail.

    But you're making a completely different argument. If I went around saying "putting people in jail is wrong!" and then I saw some kidnapper (who had taken away someone else's freedom) and pointed and said "EXCEPT FOR HIM!" then the former part of my position is incorrectly stated.

    What I really mean is that "putting people in jail is wrong UNLESS they've done something bad first." So, really, putting people in jail is only conditionally wrong, and in fact sometimes it's right. As long as you're clear about this, you should sleep tight at night.

    Think about the things you believe are wrong or bad, and then decide which of those are OK to do back to someone who does them to other people. For example, is it OK to rape a rapist? Is it OK to murder a murderer? Is it OK to torture a torturer? Is it OK to sue someone into oblivion who tries to sue other people into oblivion? Hammurabi says yes. Gandhi says no. Is doing those things the way to a better society?

    I don't have to know them personally to watch their behavior. I watch the behavior of the RIAA et al and they're the ones who lobby for stricter intellectual property laws, and these entities clearly have no regard for morality whatsoever.

    These are not "entities." They're a whole bunch of people just like you and me. You don't know a single one of them, but yet you feel wholly comfortable judging them all as having "no regard for morality whatsoever."

    You look at a subset of their actions, infer a whole bunch about their motivations (which may or may not be true, but you'll never know because you never talk to any of them), and write them all off. Once you've done that, you can institute a policy of scorched earth against them, since they're wholly evil and immoral, beyond redemption of any kind.

    In fact, part of the reason I have lost a lot of respect for intellectual property maximists is after seeing their comments and convoluted logic on techdirt.

    As long as you continue grouping up a bunch of people (who may be reasonable people, trolls, or bored thirteen year olds behind the 'Anonymous Coward' name) and calling them all "intellectual property maximists," you will never make any real progress in advancing the debate or converting people to your way of thinking. I could just wave my hands at you and call you "one of those crazy-ass Freetards" but instead I spend time responding calmly and without invective. Ultimately, I know you are not a crazy-ass Freetard, and there's really no such thing. You would do well to try it with those you put in your outgroup.

    I have caught them with stupid lies over and over (ie: no one would create art or music if it weren't for intellectual property and the industry would die, though I haven't seen them use that lie lately since clearly no one believes it).

    Why would someone "lie" like that, I wonder? I can come up with about 20 different reasons off the top of my head, most of which could be true for reasonable but misguided people.

    I bet you can come up with just one or two, both of which support no other conclusion than that they are filthy intellectual property maximists who deserve nothing more than scorn.

    I have seen them tell me to shut up because they disagree with me and that we should just be quiet since we're nobodies (this was a long time ago though, I'm not going to go search for it) and our opinions don't matter and won't make a difference.

    Them? Who "them?" Was this one person? Two? Five? The entire board of Warner Music? If someone told you to shut up, well, that's rude. Why do you hold anyone other than that individual person (or persons) responsible for that comment? Start treating people like people instead of like labeled objects. Welcome to the Internet. There are lots of trolls, but not everyone is a troll, and not all trolls are trolls all the time.

    Basically, I have seen very little good come from intellectual property maximists. Only dishonesty and disingenuous arguments.

    But to what extent is this argument a tautology? To what extent do you label people "intellectual property maximists" BECAUSE you think they make dishonest or disingenuous arguments?

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