If U.S. legislative bodies and lobbying groups are neck-deep in music-licensing and copyright issues during this â€œSummer of Copyright,â€ their northern neighbors are wading into turbulent waters, too. A protest of Canadian music royalty rates, set by the government in May, is underway. (Alan Cross, a Canadian industry blogger employed by Songza,notified usÂ of the controversy.)
Canadian law differs substantially from the U.S. in regulating music copyright and licensing rates, as do the stakehholders. Re:Sound is a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) representing artists and labels, as SoundExchange does in the U.S. Re:Sound has filed an application for judicial review of the Canadian Copyright Boardâ€™s rate-setting action of May. The main complaint is that the newly established rates are set at about one-tenth of U.S. rates.
TheÂ royalty rateÂ under scrutiny is 10.2 cents per thousand plays. During the lead-up to that rate-setting decision, Re:Sound argued for a rate between one and two dollars per thousand plays.
As some observersÂ point out, there are structural differences between the two countriesâ€™ laws that arguably make direct comparisons misleading. The situation is also complicated by the several types of licensing fees paid to music rights-holders.
Whatever the merits and breakdowns of the judicial review argument, Re:Soundâ€™s application is supported by Music Canada, a lobbying group that could be compared to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Music Canadaâ€™sÂ websiteÂ carries a list of petition supporters, most of which appear to be labels.
Whatever the outcome of the application for judicial review, the rate in question is a retroactive one, for a royalty period that runs through 2012. So, the Canadian copyright controversy is like starlight coming from distant suns â€” itâ€™s backward in time. And so it goes, with law petulantly following behind reality.