It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but new copyright policy in Canada wants to make sure streaming platforms are adequately representing – and paying for – Canadian content.
Earlier this month, members of Parliament said streaming platforms aren’t doing enough to support Canadian creators.
Between May 22 and December 6 of last year, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage met 19 times and heard from 115 witnesses, in addition to 75 written briefs. What they heard over and over was the “increasing value gap, the decline in the artistic middle class, the impact of technology on creative industries,” all resulting in more ways that Canadian artists can contribute to culture but aren’t getting the support they need to make a living from artistic endeavors.
Graham Henderson, president and CEO of Music Canada, pointed to a 20-year value gap issue. “As creative industries shifted with the advent of the internet, copyright policy and protections became outdated and ineffective,” according to the report. “Miranda Mulholland, artist and entrepreneur, aptly described “the biggest reason for (the value gap) is that the laws in place today reflect a time of home phones, of scrunchies, and of buying a CD at a music store instead of today’s world of streaming.”
As a result, and the general consensus of the report, is that artists that had been able to make a life by making albums cannot do so anymore, because fewer albums are being sold and CanCon efforts aren’t cutting it anymore. Something has to change.
Couple that with the tiny amount of money artists in general make from streaming and it’s a bad deal, one that enlarges the barrier to entry for musicians trying to support themselves with their art.
“Canadian artists and creators play a central role in the creation of high-quality Canadian content,” the report continues. “Not only does it benefit Canadian consumers, it produces income for Canadian content creators and is an important sector of the Canadian economy. For all creative industries, the committee heard that changes are needed to create a functioning marketplace for the creation of Canadian content.”
In short: If you stream Canadian cultural work – music, movies, TV shows, whatever – pay the people for their work. The report wants to see streaming services regulated like any other platform on which Canadian music in particular (but movies and TV could also fall under the same umbrella) is utilized and performed.
The report has been warmly welcomed by the music community.
“I applaud the members of the committee for listening to the voices of artists and the businesses who support music and for taking these critical first steps toward addressing the value gap in Canada,” Henderson said. “The committee’s report provides a series of thoughtful and concrete recommendations to address the underlying causes of the value gap. Many of the recommendations will significantly and immediately improve the lives of artist and our industry.”
“The Shifting Paradigms report recognizes the very real impact of unintended consequences following 2012 changes to the Copyright Act,” said Roanie Levy, president and CEO of Access Copyright. “Moreover, the committee members have responded with recommendations that will help Canadian creators and publishers continue to produce the stories, materials and resources educators and students want and need.”
Of course, nothing’s set in stone yet, as the report provides a series of recommendations that would have to be enacted into law for them to really benefit artists.
“We hope the responsible ministers will take note of the recommendations and implement them in the near future,” said Eric Baptiste, SOCAN’s CEO. “These recommendations reflected an effort that transcends partisan affiliations and represents a growing consensus for the need to strengthen the growth of the Canadian creative ecosystem.”
SOCAN did, however, express regret over “a lack of recommendation to make the private copying regime technologically neutral – an omission even more incomprehensible, since the demand was commonly shared by all players in the music industry.”