3 min

Tories want to sue music fans

Proposed copyright amendments unfair to consumers, artists

If the Conservative agenda comes to be on Oct 14, a lot of music-loving Canadians will be deemed criminals.

That’s because nearly half of Canadians share music online, according to Statistics Canada, and a lot of them aren’t paying for every song they share. While the survey doesn’t distinguish between free and paid downloads, any unpaid sharing would be subject to tough penalties under proposed Conservative copyright amendments.

In the last session of Parliament, the Tories introduced Bill C-61, which seeks to tighten copyright laws and make it illegal to share or copy music and video. Making copies of any music you did not buy could result in a massive fine, ranging from $500 to $20,000. Although the bill died when Harper called the federal election, look for it to resurface after Oct 14 if the Tories get back in power.

All my life I have shared music with my friends. I have cherished making and receiving mix tapes for years. My love for sharing music has evolved into burning CDs and encouraging friends to take music from my computer for their iPods. For me, sharing music has been a great way to discover new artists.

The music industry and technology have changed, and this is why Madonna signed a $120-million record deal with concert promoter Live Nation. Artists primarily make their money in performance and merchandise now. Sales of CDs have dropped so significantly because the way we listen to music has changed. If I really love the music, I buy the album and merchandise, and I attend the concerts. I do not agree with the idea that downloading music and file sharing means that I’m unsupportive of artists.

If anyone is interested in downloading the music of my band, Kids on TV, I encourage them to do so — in fact, songs are available for free right on our website. Our fans have created ringtones and uploaded videos to YouTube using our music. For a band like ours (who are relatively new and have a relatively small fan base), music sharing and video uploading creates exposure and awareness of our work.

Even widely popular acts such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have completely embraced the technology and the idea of accessible music. They released their latest albums for free, and I consider them vanguards in this shifting music industry. Their experiment has been incredibly successful — millions of people hear the music and come to their live performances. If you want to give the bands money, a “pay what you want” option is in place when you download the album. I already had respect for these artists but now even more so, because they stand for something that completely contrasts the ideas within Bill C-61.

Last year Jammie Thomas, a single mother from Minnesota, was fined $220,000 for alleged use of music file-sharing software. She is in trouble for downloading songs such as Destiny’s Child “Bills, Bills, Bills,” and something tells me that this song is still being played out at her house. She is one of 26,000 people the Recording Industry Association of America has sued over the past four years. Bill C-61 was modelled after US copyright legislation, to satisfy pressure from US lobbyists.

The New Democratic Party has been the most vocal in opposing Bill C-61. “The fact is this bill was not created with any serious consultation with any of the stakeholders, except, as far as we could tell, the American lobby interests,” says NDP MP Charlie Angus, the party’s digital affairs critic.

The Greens have also taken a stand against what they call “draconian” legislation. “The Conservative government calls this as an attempt at ‘modernizing’ Canada’s copyright laws, but in reality moves us closer to a 1984-style Big Brother state by severely restricting consumer rights,” says leader Elizabeth May on the party’s website.

Although the Liberals oppose Bill C-61 in its current form, they brought forward their own copyright amendments before losing the 2006 election. Their proposal was similar to the US model introduced nearly a decade ago.
Next month, when the time comes for you to place your vote for Canada’s future, please consider this. Not voting only helps the party you oppose the most. So burn a CD of the Destiny’s Child song “Bills, Bills, Bills” and crank it up. I don’t think the solution to the music industry’s problems is to sue the fans.