Why Broadcasters Should Care About the New Copyright Bill C-11

Now that Parliament is back in session we can expect to see the updated Copyright Bill known as Bill C-11 to make its way through the select committee, and eventually pass into law given the Conservative majority. It was actually introduced on 29 September last year.

And it looked like there would be some common sense changes made to this Bill to help Broadcasters. If fact, Industry Minister Paradis said, “Radio broadcasters will no longer be required to compensate copyright owners for making temporary reproductions of sound recordings required for digital operations.”

However, as it is currently drafted, Bill C-11 will not meet the promise made by the Industry Minister. The section that deals specifically with radio is clause 30.9 and it says:

30.9 (1) It is not an infringement of copyright for a broadcasting undertaking to reproduce in accordance with this section a sound recording, or a performer’s performance or work that is embodied in a sound recording, solely for the purpose of their broadcasting, if the undertaking

(a) owns the copy of the sound recording, performer’s performance or work and that copy is authorized by the owner of the copyright , or has a licence to use the copy;

[…] (4) The broadcasting undertaking must destroy the reproduction when it no longer possesses the sound recording, or performer’s performance or work embodied in the sound recording, or its licence to use the sound recording, performer’s performance or work expires, or at the latest within 30 days after making the reproduction, unless the copyright owner authorizes the reproduction to be retained.

Frankly, I suspect that most broadcasters are not aware of this wording or the impact it could have if the Bill passes with this clause unchanged. It is the words “or at the latest within 30 days after making the reproduction” that could cause Broadcasters problems and/or cost them a lot of money. In the worst case, broadcasters could be forced to destroy every song on their hard drives every 30 days and then re-record it all or be faced with continuing to pay mechanical rights fees.

As it is currently worded it would be up to Broadcasters to prove that they actually “own” a copy of the music or pay the mechanical rights fees. Given that most broadcasters receive their music via a digital service such as DMDS it could be a real challenge to prove that we actually own each recording. This artificial 30 day “destroy regime” is potentially expensive and administratively restrictive for broadcasters, yields no benefit to rights holders, and is probably unenforceable.

The CAB and a number of broadcasters are working with Parliamentarians trying to ensure this clause is updated so the new Bill lives up to the promise made by the Industry Minister and is workable.

Canadian broadcasters pay $65 million in copyright tariffs annually to artists (rights holders) for playing music on radio, and we are happy to continue to do this. But in the past few years a number of organisations have taken advantage of the current copyright act and Canadian broadcasters have been forced to pay a “reproduction fee” even though we receive the music digitally, store it on hard drives and play it from those hard drives. By the way, most of the $21 million that was collected last year as part of the new reproduction fees immediately went offshore to countries like Germany, Japan and England, meaning that Canadian artists and the Canadian music industry did not benefit in any way.

If the bill passes without this clause being changed, the very organisations that have been sucking money out of broadcasters for the past 2 years will  continue to put their hands out for even more money and hold the 30 day destroy clause over our heads. If you can reach out you your Federal MP please do so and ask that he or she talks to both the Industry and Heritage Ministers.