MUSIC PUBLISHERS CANADA

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Immediate implementation of copyright term extension crucial to ensure innovation, export potential and growth for small businessesFeb 25 2020

Opening remarks for the Standing House of Commons Committee on International Trade

By Jennifer Mitchell
President, Casablanca Media Publishing, Red Brick Songs on behalf of Music Publishers Canada

Feb. 25, 2020

Introduction

Thank you very much, Madam Chair and honourable members, for this opportunity. I’ve had the pleasure of owning and running a Canadian-owned independent music publishing business for almost two decades. I’m here today with Casey Chisick of Cassels, who is external legal counsel both to Music Publishers Canada and to my companies.

I’m here to talk to you about the need to fully implement copyright term extension, in accordance with the CUSMA,  immediately, completely, and with no conditions. This will allow songwriters to succeed, and small businesses like mine to thrive.  Quickly ratifying CUSMA and implementing copyright term extension goes straight to the heart of their and our creative and business efforts. 

Bill C-4 would extend the term of copyright for a few works but leaves out musical compositions (otherwise known as songs). On behalf of Music Publishers Canada and the songwriters and composers that I work with, I urge committee members to amend Bill C-4 to align Canada with its global trading partners by including all musical, literary, dramatic, and artistic works.

What is music publishing?

Canadian music publishing is a $329 million industry, and just one sector of the $53 billion creative industries.  Music publishers are innovators and their strong export strategies have allowed entrepreneurs like me to better compete internationally. 67 percent of music publishers’ revenue now comes from foreign sources , a dramatic increase from 28 percent in 2005.  The key to dealing with changes in technology has been our ability to expand globally.

In order to do so, we take financial risks and invest our time, energy and money in building the international careers of songwriters – including emerging songwriters. For example, we signed the 23-year-old Tom Probizanski, which allowed him to move to Toronto. We then paid for him to go to L.A. and Denmark to co-write, and we set up his co-writing sessions. We also paid for his blog and playlisting promotion so that he was featured in Clash magazine and EARMILK and various Spotify playlists. 

We were able to take these risks, and invest that money, only because I could rely on the income of several songs for which my companies hold the copyright for example, Imagine, by John Lennon, What a Wonderful World, My Way, YMCA, Start Me Up, by the Rolling Stones, Skinnamarink by Sharon, Lois & Bram,  and even the theme to the The Simpsons.

Why implement copyright term extension now?

But a number of Red Brick’s songs will soon fall into the public domain because Canada’s copyright legislation is not in line with international standards. Holding on to these valuable copyrights for an extra 20 years would translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for good middle class jobs, reinvestments in the Canadian economy and in Canadian songwriters, and the ability to scale our business and export our music to international markets.  

Immediate action should be taken to prevent countless valuable works from falling into the public domain between now and the end of 2022. Otherwise, we risk stifling innovation,  creativity, export potential, and growth for small businesses like mine. We also risk creating more confusion as remaining out of step with our international trading partners continues to complicate licensing for users, instead of providing any relief.

No registration required

I would like to quickly speak about the Industry Committee’s report on its review of the Copyright Act in the last parliament.  

Some believe that copyright registration is needed in order to have a seamless transition. I respectfully disagree. Publishers and songwriters already register all of their works with SOCAN and CMRRA in Canada in order to be paid.  A second government registration system would create nothing more than an unnecessary burden for copyright owners, and the potential to introduce abuse into a system that already works very well to the benefit of creators, users, and the public.  Mandatory registration would also violate Canada’s international treaty obligations, even if it only applies to the last 20 years of an extended term. It is a basic tenet of copyright law internationally that protection must be granted without formalities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, adding another 20 years to the life of a copyright means a robust creative sector, more Canadian cultural exports, and the growth of many innovative businesses that have embraced the digital market. It is long past time for Canada to catch up to its international trading partners in this respect. 

We urge committee members to amend Bill C-4 to include immediate implementation of copyright term extension, with no conditions. Music Publishers Canada has prepared draft legislative language to accomplish this, which we’ve submitted to the clerk for the committee’s consideration.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to this important issue. Casey Chisick and I are happy to answer questions.

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