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Copyright: SHIFTING PARADIGMS

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage released a report on its study of remuneration models for artists and creative industries in preparation for a mandatory parliamentary review of the Copyright Act. The full text of the report, entitled SHIFTING PARADIGMS, can be found here:  https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/CHPC/report-19/

The Committee interviewed artists, musicians and others in the creative industries to understand the everyday experiences of Canadian artists. Several themes emerged:

  • The value gap between the creative content enjoyed by consumers and the revenues that are received by the artists is increasing.
  • There is a decline in the artistic middle class. Canada has many highly successful well-known musicians, artists, writers and performers. But most artists and creators struggle to earn a living from their art.
  • Technological developments such as file-sharing software and online streaming platforms have greatly increased public access to artistic content, but different compensation models and widespread piracy mean that less of the revenue generated actually reaches the artists.
  • Consumer attitudes to culture have changed. In the past, consumers paid for a product, such as a book or a music CD. Now consumers pay for technologies that allow them to access cultural content. There is record-high consumption of subscription services but the value of what consumers are willing to pay for content has decreased. Many consumers believe that artistic content on the internet should be free. When content is made available for free it is often by large companies with complementary businesses that can compensate for their costs, not by artists who produce the content.
  • Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on individual property may differ from the principles underlying copyright law. There is a need to foster support for indigenous artists that respects their traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.

As a result of their deliberations, the Committee generated a list of twenty-two recommendations for adapting to new technological mechanisms for distribution of artistic content and sustaining a vibrant artistic and creative industry. The recommendations include:

  • providing support to enable creative industries to adapt to digital markets and promote the distribution of Canadian content;
  • creation of educational materials to raise awareness of copyright provisions, artist remuneration, artist’s rights and responsibilities under the Copyright Act;
  • increasing efforts to combat piracy and to enforce copyright law;
  • reviewing safe harbour exceptions and laws to ensure that internet service providers are held accountable for their role in content distribution;
  • regulating music streaming services and reviewing online music tariffs to ensure royalty payments provide fair compensation;
  • amending the Copyright Act to: (a) clarify and/or remove exceptions to infringement; (b) limit fair dealing exceptions for educational institutions when works are commercially available; (c) extend moral and economic rights to audiovisual performers; (d) limit charitable exemptions to activities where no commercial monetary gain is intended; and (e) increase the term of copyright from 50 to 75 years from the death of the author.
  • ensuring that Canada meets its international treaty obligations to protect the rights of creators;
  • promoting the licensing of artistic content through collective societies and harmonize remedies available to collective societies;
  • establishing an artist’s resale right to provide to the artist a portion of revenues generated when an artistic work is resold by an art dealer or auction house.

The Committee heard from many artists, institutions and industry stakeholders during its consultation process. The publication of its SHIFTING PARADIGMS report identifies many challenges faced by the artists and recommends avenues by which to foster the Canadian arts industry. What happens next is an open question. The Canadian Parliament begins its summer recess in June, and a federal election is scheduled for October 2019. We will wait and see whether the recommendations in the report find their way into government initiatives and legislative change going forward.