Image: CIMA
Image: CIMA

Feds Launch Consultations On Copyright Board Reform

Music Canada applauds the August 9 announcement by The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, in conjunction with The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, that the government has launched a consultation process to reform the Copyright Board of Canada. The consultations will run until September 29 and will seek public feedback on ideas to make the Copyright Board’s processes more transparent and more efficient.

The Board establishes royalties for the use of copyrighted content in a broad range of areas where the administration of copyright is authorized to a collective management organization such as SOCAN and Re:Sound. This includes music streaming, the public performance of music, educational copying and the retransmission of television signals. 

Several consultations and recent research have identified the need for timely decisions on the use of copyrighted content, particularly in light of rapid technological advances.

A government discussion paper presents 13 possible options for legislative and regulatory reforms. The government will also consider any other reform options that would help address the Board’s challenges outlined in the discussion paper and is seeking outside ideas and opinions that are to be submitted by email no later than September 29 at CBconsultations@canada.ca.

“Music Canada applauds Minister Bains and Minister Joly for beginning these consultations on Copyright Board reform,” Graham Henderson, President and CEO of Music Canada said in a statement on Wednesday. “The time is right to modernize the Board, which will better support music creators and advance Canada’s innovation agenda. A more efficient and predictable regulatory environment will help spur growth for Canada’s cultural industries and the creative class.”

Music Canada also notes in a news release, published on its website, that the announcement follows the release of a 2016 report by the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce titled Copyright Board: A Rationale for Urgent Review. The thorough and comprehensive report concluded that the Board is “dated, dysfunctional and in dire need of reform.”

During the Senate committee hearings that led to the report, stakeholder and expert witnesses all identified the lack of timely decision-making as the biggest challenge in relation to the Board, and there was widespread consensus on the need for urgent, meaningful reform. The Senate report notes that “On average, the Board may take between 3.5 and 7 years to make a final decision, the result of which is uncertainty and diminished economic activity within Canada’s cultural sector.”

SOCAN, the Canadian Music Publishers Association and Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency Ltd. have also welcomed the federal government’s consultations on how to review the work of the Copyright Board of Canada and are committed to participating fully in the consultation process.

“The operation and resulting decisions of the Board are crucial to the development and growth of the music publishing industry in Canada”, says Canadian Music Publishers Association Executive Director Margaret McGuffin.

“The Canadian Music Publishers Association has long agreed with the need to make the Board’s tariff-setting process as efficient and effective as possible, particularly in a time of profound change in the digital world.” McGuffin further adds "That rights holders deserve to receive fair value for what their music brings to those music services (and) to do so, they require an independent and well-functioning Copyright Board with the capacity to carry out the vital service it exists to perform.”

Veronica Syrtash,  Legal and Business Affairs VP for the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, said, “It is of the utmost importance to the rights holders we represent that the Copyright Board of Canada renders its decisions in a thorough and timely manner, and has the proper resources necessary to review the many tariff applications on new technologies.”

The Canadian Independent Music Association concurs that the Copyright Board needs to modernize its processes and its timelines.

In a submission to the government last year, organization president, Stuart Johnson, was candid in his assessment of the Board’s current status being "A significant obstacle to prosperity and growth in Canada’s cultural sector is the delays associated with Copyright Board of Canada decisions."

In its Digital Can Con submission last year, Johnson voiced some concerns his constituents have with the current operation of the Board. In part, the association opined that "The music industry relies on fair and timely decisions, to facilitate better business planning and maximize revenues for the commercial exploitation of its music. Both decisions on tariffs and ratification of negotiated tariff agreements need to be much faster, and creator-centric appropriate, to match the speed at which change continues to impact the industry."

Continuing: "Unfortunately, the Copyright Board of Canada quite often renders its decisions long after its hearings are held. By way of recent examples, the SOCAN online media tariff took between 10 and 18 years to be concluded (depending on whether the length of the original hearing is taken into account), while the CSI-SOCAN online music services and commercial radio station decisions took close to three years to be finalized. Likewise, the Re:Sound Tariff 8 decision for streaming services was rendered more than two years after Copyright Board hearings were first held.

"Such a lengthy judicial process severely impacts investment, business planning and the livelihood of those working in the Canadian music industry, as well as those companies that commercialize music as part of their business model. Rendering decisions long after the fact is an unproductive and untenable process, particularly when one considers that the Canadian music industry is mainly comprised of small businesses – businesses that can ill afford uncertainty and long delays.

"The speed at which technological change continues to take place requires equally timely decisions by the Copyright Board to foster growth and jobs in the industry. Unfortunately, Copyright Board decisions continue to be protracted and overdue, an impediment to industrial growth and jobs."

In step with Music Canada, the CMPA and CMRRA, CIMA is CIMA recommending the Government ensures that the Copyright Board of Canada is "optimally configured and has the resources it needs to render fair and equitable tariff decisions in a timely manner – a process that is more closely aligned with ever-evolving technology and the planning cycle of the Canadian music industry – and to ensure that it operates within a business development framework."

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