Friday, October 09, 2009

On CRTC, Kindle, Copyright Board, Copyright & Controversy

Michael Geist has unearthed the CRTC submission to the recent copyright consultation. It was apparently posted just yesterday, October 8, 2009 despite having been submitted on September 11.

The remarkably sensible submission is also remarkable for its frank recommendations on how things might be improved in terms of the tariff setting procedure and the work of the Copyright Board. The CRTC recommendations are quite consistent with my own now old observations found here.

No doubt some eyebrows will be raised about whether one tribunal should be suggesting changes in the way another should operate, for example with respect to:

* timeliness
* cost awards

For its part, the Copyright Board may nonetheless welcome the CRTC's suggestion that the Board should have "the resources necessary to fulfill its mandate within timelines that do not disadvantage the parties before it."

The problem, however, would be that the Canadian Copyright Board is already by far the biggest institution of its kind anywhere in the world. This leads to several other discussions, which I won't deal with here and now.

The CRTC also deals with private copying and the need for a single radio tariff. No fear of controversy here. This is vintage von Finckenstein.

The CRTC is right about its conclusion, which is this:
Copyright is a key instrument enabling the digital knowledge economy. For it to withstand the test of time, the Copyright Act should be reformed in a manner that defies a silo based approach — and includes considerations of related issues such as the extension of access to next generation networks, appropriate funding for the production and digitization of Canadian cultural content, and efforts to encourage research, development and innovation in the communications industries.
This is quite timely. Everyone is beginning to notice the precipitous decline in Canadian innovation that is resulting from a lack of competition in key sectors in Canada and lack of coherence in Canadian policy and regulation. See today's Globe and Mail.

The CRTC's conclusion is perhaps idealistic and not without irony. The CRTC itself has much to answer for in terms of lack of competition in Canadian telecommunications and the noticeable decline in innovation in respect of anything to do with broadband and wireless services. But this submission is a beacon of hope that some, at least, see the need to do things better going forward.

Something has got to give in Canada. I have no doubt that these issues are part of the reason that Canada is among the last to benefit from new technological innovations. For example, even if Amazon can find a carrier competitive enough to cut a decent Kindle deal, it would then likely be zapped with an application for a tariff for the “communication” right filed probably by Access Copyright ("AC") - and it would then have to spend potentially millions on that proceeding which would take years, not to mention the inevitable judicial review. The resulting tariff, if it were finally certified, could increase costs substantially and retroactively but not predictably, and with insignificant benefit to most actual Canadian creators. This is what happens with redundant collectively administered rights - to which our collectives wish to add even more.


Update - A perceptive question/comment from Andrew Martin, former head of Access Copyright - below. Why might AC do this? For the same reason that music publishers have tried to get at least two bites and tariffs at the same online apple, so to speak.


  1. Why would Access Copyright seek a tariff on a point-to-point transaction involving product that its members were selling?

  2. His perceptive question needs to be quoted in full! My point is that there is no remaining right to be licensed if the e-book has been sold by the retailer to the end-user.

  3. Andrew:

    Your comment was posted precisely as sent.

    Have a look at how the online music services issues have unfolded at the Copyright Board over the years.