Shifting Paradigms: the Heritage Committee study on copyright

Earlier this week the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage released its report Shifting Paradigms. The Committee studied remuneration models for artists and the creative industries including the challenges and opportunities for creators. The Committee found several major themes that connected testimony throughout the study:

  • the increasing value gap (a disparity between the value of creative content enjoyed by consumers and the revenues that are received by artists and the creative industries)
  • the decline in the artistic middle class
  • the negative impact of technology on creative industries, and
  • changes in consumer culture and the Indigenous perspective on copyright

The Committee’s conclusions were no surprise to people working in the creative industries.

During this study, the Committee heard about the current realities facing artists and creative industries in Canada. As technology has evolved, remuneration models for artists and creative industries have not. Currently, artists are not being paid adequately for the use of their works, particularly online.

Witnesses overwhelmingly asked for concrete changes that would address the decline in the artistic middle class. As such, the Committee’s recommendations focus on modernizing remuneration models and leveling the playing field for artists and creative industries.

What became apparent throughout the study was that this issue affects not only artists but all Canadians. As Frédérique Couette of Copibec said, “what’s at stake here is the dissemination of our culture and our conception of our cultural heritage.” The Committee acknowledges that the continued creation of Canadian content depends on adequate remuneration for those who create it. The Committee shares the view of songwriter and musician Damhnait Doyle, who said, “as writers, musicians, and creators, our impact in the culture [of] this country is immeasurable, and we do deserve to get paid for our work.”

The Committee made 25 recommendations, many to help restore the imbalances it found between those working to create and disseminate creative content and those using it.

Undoubtedly, the title to the study “Shifting Paradigms” was aptly meant to support the recommendations by conveying the need for progressive thinking about how copyright law should be recalibrated to provide better protection and compensation for creators and the creative industries.

The findings and recommendations of the Committee were made following 19 Committee meetings which heard testimony from 115 witnesses and after receiving 75 briefs. The witnesses and briefs provided the Committee with a broad diversity of views from all sides of the copyright spectrum including creators and their representatives, users and their industry organizations, individuals and academics, and government officials charged with administering the Copyright Act. For example, representations were made by:

  • artists such as Andrew Morrison, Bryan Adams, and Miranda Mulholland
  • authors such as Sylvia McNicoll and Monia Mazigh
  • Canadian film producers Stephen Stohn (President SkyStone Media) and Scott Garvie (Shaftesbury Films)
  • book publishers such as Kevin Hanson (Vice-Chair President of Simon & Schuster Canada) and Matt Williams (Vice-President House of Anansi Press)
  • users such as Jason Kee of Google Canada and YouTube, Darren Schmidt of Spotify, Oiliver Jaakkola of SiriuXM, Pam Dinsmore of Rogers Communications, and representatives of Universities Canada (Allan Bell and Wendy) and the universities of British Columbia, Calgary, Guelph, New Brunswick, and Winnipeg
  • individuals such as Howard Knopf and Cory Doctorow and well known academics who generally advocate for weak or weaker copyright laws such as Professors Michael Geist, Jeremy de Beer and Ariel Katz
  • associations representing the cultural industries such as Graham Henderson from Music Canada and John Degen of The Writers’ Union of Canada
  • copyright collectives such as from SOCAN, CMRRA, and Access Copyright
  • associations representing users such as Canadian Association of Broadcasters,  Canadian Association of Research Libraries, Canadian Association of University Teachers, Canadian Federation of Library Associations, Universities Canada, and Canadian Federation of Students
  • officials from the Department of Canadian Heritage (Ian Dahlman, Lara Taylor, and Nathalie Théberge) and ISED (Mark Schaan and Martin Simard)

The Committee also had broad participation from MPs from all political parties. This included the Committee Chair Julie Dabrusin, Vice Chairs Steven Blaney and Pierre Nantel, 10 Committee members (Gary Anandasangaree, Randy Boissonnault, Pierre Breton, Anju Dhillon, Andy Fillmore, Gordie Hogg, Wayne Long, Martin Shields, Kate Young, and David Yurdiga) and 14 other MPs who also participated (William Amos, Mel Arnold, Robert Aubin, Vance Badawey, Maxime Bernier, Sylvie Boucher, Sean Casey, Shaun Chen, Alupa A. Clarke, Julie Dzerowicz, Sukh Dhaliwal, Terry Duguid, Jim Eglinski, and Rosemarie Falk).

The conclusions and recommendations in the study – that remuneration models need to be modernized and that the playing field for artists and creative industries needs to be levelled to create a properly functioning marketplace – accordingly reflects a unanimous call from all sides of the Parliamentary aisle for a more modernized recalibrated copyright law that better supports creators and closes the value gap. Notably, the Committee’s  conclusions and recommendations  are  based on their joint assessments of the evidence of the witnesses and representations made to them from every copyright paradigm.

The findings of the Heritage Committee and its focus on “shifting paradigms” are consistent with recent developments in the European Union which, after significant study, just adopted a new Directive on copyright which includes new measures to help restore a well functioning marketplace for copyright. It is also consistent with the recent shift in paradigms about Internet and technology regulation that increasingly focus on ensuring that online values, norms, and laws are consistent with those offline, something I recently spoke about at the McCarthy Tétrault 8th Annual Technology Law Innovation Summit.

Next up is the report of the INDU Committee on copyright which also held extensive hearings in parallel with the Heritage Committee.

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