Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Canadian opera companies and the copyright consultation process

The Canadian Conference for the Arts has come out against what many are seeing as a disingenuous consultation process on copyright reform in Canada. The group, which represents, among others, Opera.ca and by extension, most of the opera companies in Canada, says that they will be unable to participate in the process because they were given just one week's notice to prepare.

By way of background, the Federal Government is holding copyright consultations this summer in what they say is a way to make sure that everyone has input into this fall's upcoming copyright reform. Many, however, don't believe this to be a legitimate consultation process as the public will only be admitted to two meetings - one in Montreal, the other in Toronto. In addition, as we are hearing, many those invited to the other private meetings won't be able to attend, mainly due to 1) it being held in the summer when many artists and representatives are either on tour or out of the country, 2) they won't have enough preparation time to put together presentations, and 3) most non-profit groups would require board approval for travel expenses to the meetings and boards won't sit within the next week. Lobby groups for recording companies, film distributors, and the US-tied copyright groups won't have those issues though.

It is widely pressumed that some of the only groups at these "consultation meetings" will be record labels or their associates and that that would suit the Conservative government, who have been under US pressure for months to re-address the issue, just fine.

Why does this matter to you? Well, professionally it will affect the copyright expiration times on new operas. This means that, as in the US, but not in Europe or here at the moment, operas written 60 years ago, and with the composer dead, the publishing company would still be able to charge performance rights on those shows despite having no one around who was involved in the work's creation to benefit from the money. The same is true about opera translations. Opera recordings are also expected to be under license for up to 75 years, meaning no more inexpensive recordings of long dead artists. Personally it will mean things like you won't be able to buy a CD but put the music on your iPod - you'll need to buy an iPod copy too or face a $500 per song fine.

If you live in Montreal, or Vancouver, you may want to consider getting out to the meetings. You can sign up (because there's limited space at them,) here.

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