While Other Countries Debate Copyright Terms, Canada Just Takes Record Labels' Word That It Needs To Increase
from the because-of-course dept
Copyright is monopoly, and produces all the effects which the general voice of mankind attributes to monopoly. My honorable and learned friend talks very contemptuously of those who are led away by the theory that monopoly makes things dear. That monopoly makes things dear is certainly a theory, as all the great truths which have been established by the experience of all ages and nations, and which are taken for granted in all reasonings, may be said to be theories. It is a theory in the same sense in which it is a theory, that day and night follow each other, that lead is heavier than water, that bread nourishes, that arsenic poisons, that alcohol intoxicates.Since then, of course, there have been many, many debates on the proper length of copyright terms. But usually, at the very least there is some debate about it, with people weighing in on various sides.
If, as my honorable and learned friend seems to think, the whole world is in the wrong on this point, if the real effect of monopoly is to make articles good and cheap, why does he stop short in his career of change? Why does he limit the operation of so salutary a principle to sixty years? Why does he consent to anything short of a perpetuity? He told us that in consenting to anything short of a perpetuity he was making a compromise between extreme right and expediency. But if his opinion about monopoly be correct, extreme right and expediency would coincide. Or rather why should we not restore the monopoly of the East India trade to the East India Company? Why should we no revive all those old monopolies which, in Elizabeths reign, galled our fathers so severely that, maddened by intolerable wrong, they opposed to their sovereign a resistance before which her haughty spirit quailed for the first and for the last time? Was it the cheapness and excellence of commodities that then so violently stirred the indignation of the English people?
I believe, Sir, that I may safely take it for granted that the effect of monopoly generally is to make articles scarce, to make them dear, and to make them bad. And I may with equal safety challenge my honorable friend to find out any distinction between copyright and other privileges of the same kind; any reason why a monopoly of books should produce an effect directly the reverse of that which was produced by the East India Companys monopoly of tea, or by Lord Essexs monopoly of sweet wines. Thus, then, stands the case. It is good that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good.
That's why it was somewhat astounding, last month, when Canada just announced with no warning that it was extending copyright as part of a budget update. There was no discussion around it. No public debate. Nothing at all.
And, now, as Michael Geist has discovered, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's correspondence with the recording industry shows that he just decided to ratchet up copyright term himself, without even asking for public input or even bothering to consider how such a move might harm the public.
Thank you for your recent letter regarding the copyright term for sound recordings. I have reviewed this material carefully, and share your view that the current term of copyright protection for sound recordings falls short of what is required to protect artists and ensure they are fairly compensated for their work.This is quite incredible on many different levels. Harper must know that any change to copyright law is controversial and deserves public debate and discussion. After all, he's been through a few debates concerning copyright reform in Canada. Did he really think that he could just do this without anyone noticing?
Please know that, as announced today in Budget 2015, our Government will extend copyright protection for sound recordings from 50 to 70 years. The extension will be incorporated into the Budget Implementation Act, and will be in effect immediately upon passage of the legislation.
And, really, considering that this is a move to flat out take away the public's rights, you'd have to think that it's only appropriate to at least hold a public discussion about whether or not extending copyright in such a manner makes sense. But, nope. The head of the Canadian recording industry lobby sent a letter, and Harper said "Sure, let's slip that into the budget."
As Michael Geist notes, the whole thing is incredible on many levels:
The letter is remarkable as it confirms that the copyright term extension for sound recordings was strictly the product of behind-the-scenes industry lobbying with no broader public consultation or discussion. While other countries spent years debating the issue with careful study, the Canadian government simply caved on the issue based on a little lobbying from foreign record labels. The Conservative government did not consult with Canadian companies or retailers about the impact of their changes, nor did they dig into the data that would have revealed that this change will decrease revenues for many artists. Instead, the major record labels pulled out all the stops to block competitive new records from entering the marketplace and the Prime Minister obliged by including copyright reforms in a budget bill.