Canada Legal Action Against Internet Piracy
This is an archived article. Please consult the blog for additional information.

Groupe Archambault, a Montreal based company that owns several small Quebecois labels and Distribution Select, one of Canada's largest independant distributors, have decided to take legal action against individuals that distributed material they own or distribute without authorisation on the internet.

According to Groupe Archambault president and CEO Natalie Lariviere, Quebec based labels have faired better than most labels, having lost 2.6% of their sales since 2000 compared to 28% in the rest of Canada. But they also wish to protect their upcoming online music distribution service from further losses by both taking action against individuals that distribute material online and by informing the Quebecois public that online piracy is illegal and culturally unacceptable via the media outlets in Quebec.

The Causes

There are currently three million people downloading music per week in Canada and piracy is worstening because only 9% of those that pirate material recognise it as theft or believe their actions are illegal, this according to a 2002 survey quoted by Groupe Archambault.

From the conversations i've had i'd have to agree and say most of them are quite confused about what is and isn't piracy. This is quite apparent from the anti-RIAA rants in which they claim the labels are sueing people for simply distributing material online, even material that was authorised for distribution by indie acts and labels. But i've also recognised a larger problem in some people - Many believe they are entitled to recordings, more than artists, songwriters producers and lyricists are entitled to compensation. And they're quite willing to deprive these people and local retail stores of their share simply because the record company obtains a large share of the income.

Perhaps the record companies have done too good of a job portraying the music industry as a glamorous fantasy but i'm puzzled as to why people are missing the operative word in the term "music business" ; business. Like all businesses they invest for a return and in many cases they hardly get money back, resulting in less royalties for the artists, etc.

As mentioned in my previous commentary, the music industry is definately to blame for some loss revenue, a percentage of the reduction is sales being attributed to other factors like the lack of material for the majority of their consumers and the price of certain CDs. But piracy is still a major problem that should be addressed before it results in the alarming losses like that in the states - Before CRIA, our version of RIAA, responds in an aggresive manner like RIAA.

Private Copying & Piracy

Another problem that rears its head is this misconception that people are already being compensated for piracy with the blank media levy.

The blank audio media levy is paid by the manufacturers and importers of blank media like CD-R, CD-RW, audio cassettes and a few other media mentioned in my previous article on the subject. It is not paid directly from the consumer to the government appointed collective. And it is collected to compensate individuals for "private copying", as defined and legalised in the Private Copying portion of our Copyright Act. The document clearly states that "distribution, whether or not for the purpose of trade" and "communicating to the public by telecommunication" is not considered "private copying". (REF : copyright act, section 80, subsection 2 b & c)

An Eventuality / Accountibility

This Canadian precedent was in my opinion an eventuality ; A response to the individuals who did not simply download material to preview it once or twice but in response to those who choose keep material they haven't purchased to blank media instead of supporting our artists by purchasing the material.

I personally believe that this pre-emptive strike against piracy within Canada is unfortunately nessesary to protect our country's cultural interests. Yes, the labels should have instituted their digital distribution systems years ago but legal actions like these would have happened anyway, in order to protect whatever distribution methods they would have had. And the public should be made aware that their actions have consequences in our cultural industries.

The consumer is slowly getting what he/she wants so piracy is inexcusable : Universal Music has reduced prices. Online purchases of recordings are making their way into Canada. And the previous copy protection schemes are being reviewed and may be rescinded for more consumer friendly schemes. We must act responsibly to avoid the blank audio media levies on hard drives and memory cards, as proposed by the Canadian Private Copying Collective in 2002, and the problems that the Americans are subjected to because of piracy.


UPDATE - Dismissed due to a lack of evidence relating to the actual distribution of the material in question. All appeals also dismissed.