Music Copyright in the News

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It's a little joke among my colleagues in the MARIA office that I get a little too excited about copyright. But who could have guessed that 2007 would end with so much buzz about copyright, and already in 2008 copyright stories are back in the media. Here's a couple:

iPod Levy - On Thursday, the Canadian court of appeal struck down a Copyright Board of Canada decision to move ahead with a private copying levy on iPods and other digital music storage devices. This levy is akin to the levy that is paid on blank CDs and cassettes and is designed to compensate copyright owners for the copies that consumers make of songs for their own private use. CRIA opposed the new levy, even though it would provide a whole new bundle of cash for its members (record labels) because it felt that the levy was an acknowledgement that people were using these digital devices to make illegal copies of music. CRIA chose to stand on its ideological position, and continue to pursue copyright reform that would allow them to sue music users who make illegal copies of music, rather than be compensated for private copying.

Michael Giest writes about the levy decision, and its demise. Other recent articles on the court of appeal decision appear in the National Post, and on the CBC, among others.

Amazon.com - Also this week, Sony/BMG was the last major label hold out to announce that it would offer DRM-free downloads on Amazon.com. This could effectively end the debate on DRM, even as the major labels hold out for stronger legislation that would encourage the digital locks. The market seems to be moving on and this move by Amazon will surely spur other digital music retailers, including iTunes, to make a move in that direction.

Canadian DMCA - Of course the big copyright elephant in the room is the looming Canadian copyright reform legislation. The federal government planned to introduce, then postponed, then acted, then postponed the new legislation before the holiday recess. The internet and media storm that the new legislation caused seemed to catch the government by surprise and it now seems unlikely that we'll see the new legislation until after a federal election.

There is little doubt that Canada's copyright act would need to be updated to meet WIPO standards. The government signed a WIPO internet copyright treaty in 1997 but has done little to address these issues through legislation. However, critics fear that new copyright legislation will make criminals of anyone who shares music digitally or breaks a digital lock, and these groups would rather see a progressive rather than punitive approach to monetizing digital media. With groups like Radiohead going to the extreme of giving away digital music in order to create buzz, and draw fans to attend shows and buy the value-added physical package, and groups like the Canadian Music Creators Coalition speaking against DRM and the sueing  of music fans, it's clear that not all copyright holders are in favour of a DMCA-type solution to the problem of digital music sharing. This is of course a quick gloss of the issue, but if the Canadian copyright reform bill hits the order papers again soon, there will undoubtedly be lots opf press and blogs to read on the issue.

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