Canada: online piracy a problem hurting artists, creators and the economy?

Lawyer Barry Sookman from his website
Lawyer Barry Sookman from his website

Note the question mark in my title, which otherwise is the same as Barry’s title. That’s because I’m questioning Barry’s conclusion. Part of the reason I’m questioning it, it because his post is so sparse on detail. Indeed if you do a search the only use of the word ‘creator’ is in the title, and the only other use of the word ‘artist’ is in the last paragraph where he’s apparently quoting the Canadian Intellectual Property Council.

Background

I usually don’t bother with background, but in this case, I think it’s necessary, in part because of who is going to end up reading this. I’ll go first.

I started this blog because I wanted to improve my writing. I don’t get paid to write, in fact I’m currently unemployed, and unemployable due to nerve damage. As a result I end up spending most of my days partially stoned on prescription drugs, which is why my writing tends to be somewhat uneven. It’s difficult to write when you are in massive pain. It’s also why I sometimes come across as a rabid wolverine, the pain makes me short tempered.

I also own the websites Police State Watch Canada (which is currently down while I spammer-proof the wiki) and Web Lit Canada (which is open to all Canadian Writers, though the official announcement hasn’t been made yet).

Barry Sookman owns the site Barry Sookman dot Com, which he states is his personal opinions. The site consists of posts almost exclusively on what is commonly referred to as intellectual property issues.

Intriguingly Barry is employed as a lawyer with the law firm McCarthy Tétrault, and works out of their Toronto office. Barry is a registered lobbyist for the Canadian Recording Industry Association, through his employment at McCarthy Tétrault.

I have been unable to identify a single blog post which Barry made which didn’t seem to be work related. For that matter he hews to the Canadian Recording Industry Party line on copyright issues. Every time.

It’s quite possible that these are Barry’s own beliefs. However having traded messages with him several times, my impression is that he’s too intelligent to believe that the solutions that the Canadian Recording Industry wants will do them any long term good.

Deconstruction

So let’s look at the details. First, as I noted the only use of the word creator in the post is in the title, and the only use of the word artist is in the title, and the quote in the last paragraph. Why is that?

Because Barry doesn’t speak for creators and artists. Note that he doesn’t claim to either. He makes it sound like he does, but no where does he explicitly claim that he does. Barry is a lawyer, and he doesn’t want to leave himself open to legal action, so he’s being careful with his wording.

Barry, as noted above is a lobbyist for the Canadian Recoding Industry Association. From the about page on their website:

The Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) is a non-profit trade organization that was founded in 1964 to represent the interests of Canadian companies that create, manufacture and market sound recordings.

No artists there. But create? Could they be creators? Let’s look up the definition. From Dictionary.com:

–verb (used with object)

1.

to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes.
2.

to evolve from one’s own thought or imagination, as a work of art or an invention.
3.

Theater . to perform (a role) for the first time or in the first production of a play.
4.

to make by investing with new rank or by designating; constitute; appoint: to create a peer.
5.

to be the cause or occasion of; give rise to: The announcement created confusion.
6.

to cause to happen; bring about; arrange, as by intention or design: to create a revolution; to create an opportunity to ask for a raise.
–verb (used without object)

7.

to do something creative or constructive.
8.

British . to make a fuss.
–adjective

9.
Archaic . created.

I think what we are dealing with is an inventive use of language here. The CRIA member companies manufacture Compact Discs of recorded music (and before that cassette tapes). They could be claiming that they are creating these recordings. In some cases their engineers may have been involved in the recording work, and in the sound engineering. Whether this is ‘creative work’ depends upon your definitions. Me, I’d consider Anne Murray, Rita McNeil, or Celine Dion as a creator, not Warner Music Canada.

But Barry has deliberately given an impression that this is about artists, while carefully not saying it is. Why?

Because Canadians care about their artists. We have a proprietary attitude towards people like Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, April Wine, The Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Magoo, Steve Ingram, Carl Nixon, etc. We visit their concerts, buy their music, and boast about how much better they are than American artists.

Let’s Look Elsewhere – Facebook Group

How about the Balanced Copyright Facebook Group? The overview says:

This Facebook page and corresponding website was created to allow Canadian creators, artists and those whose jobs rely directly on being able to be paid for what they create to show their support for the newly-announced Copyright Modernization Act, or Bill C-32.

But… Where are the artists? Seriously? I went over the members of the group that had been posting recently, trying to determine if any of them were HBGary style sock puppets (still not sure about that). While doing so, I also checked out their connections. Over 80% could be connected back to Warner Music Canada, EMI Canada, Sony Music Canada, the Canadian Recording Music Industry Association, and a variety of smaller players, including agents. 2% could be tracked back to the software industry, including a staffer who works for Microsoft in Redmond. I didn’t find one single artist.

Maybe the Facebook Group should consider the Truth in Advertising laws and change their blurb.

Let’s Look Elsewhere – Website

Now we’ve got some artists. Here’s:

Randy Bachman

Maia Davies

Andy Stochansky

Let me get that straight. Out of how many thousands of artists in Canada, they could only get three? Admittedly it is their board. Still, you think that if someone like say, Gordon Lightfoot backed them, it would be splashed all over the place, wouldn’t it? Let’s look at some Canadian artists, and what they say. I’ve looked at their websites, and given you links so you can look as well.

Lee Aaron – nothing.

Abdominal – nothing

Bryan Adams – nothing

Susan Aglukark – nothing

C-A – nothing

Coco Love Alcorn – nothing

John Alcorn – nothing

Toya Alexis – nothing

Madeleine Allakariallak – nothing

Chad Allan – nothing – note that this is Randy Bachman’s ex-partner

Lillian Allen – nothing

Now I could keep going through the list of Canadian musicians on Wikipedia but it’s 1:00 AM, and I really do need to go to bed. I do think it’s curious that NONE of the musicians that I checked, in alphabetical order, who are still alive, could be found to have said anything in favor of it.

Really curious. So who is this law going to benefit? Think about it.

Regards

Wayne Borean

Wednesday March 9, 2011

 

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