Laws in democratic countries aren’t usually written to protect those involved in ongoing criminal activity.
Those kind of governments craft their legislation to protect the people, not the ruling elites or special interest groups.
And then -- there’s Canada’s proposed new copyright legislation C-11.
The stated intent of C-11 is to protect copyrights in the digital age, to ensure that those who produce creative and intellectual material are properly rewarded for their work.
Only it doesn’t do that.
Crafted to fit the needs of media conglomerates who hold copyright through their distribution deals with artists, instead of those who actually create the content, the bill continues a corporate process that rewards those who exploit and destroy the lives of artists.
In January of last year, as executives for the Canadian Recording Industry Association lobbied Department of Heritage officials and members of Parliament to plead the cause of copyright reform, they were also in court admitting that they’d been stealing from Canadian copyright holders.
Stealing to the tune of $45 Million – or rather – that was the sum agreed upon to settle a class action suit by the actual creators of music they had exploited for years despite contractually agreed compensation.
In other words, Heritage was crafting its new copyright regulations to fit the needs of admitted white collar criminals, enabling them to continue abuses of artists that have gone on for generations.
Perhaps we’ve come a long way from the day when mob guys jammed a gun in the mouth of Buddy Knox and threatened to pull the trigger if he ever again uttered the word “royalty”.
Perhaps we’ve just evolved to the point where the mob guys have law degrees and the guns have been replaced by public policy.
This morning, a photograph posted on Facebook began to make the rounds, first shared by artists who’ve been there and then by their fans – the people who elect democratic governments.
For the visually impaired, or those reading this on a mobile device:
I AM the former Lead Singer of a 60’s BAND. I performed before thousands at Atlanta Pop 2, Miami Pop, Newport Pop, Atlantic Pop. I did NOT squander my money on drugs or a fancy home. I went from 1967-1994 before I saw my first Royalty Check.
The Music Giants I recorded with only paid me for 7 of my Albums.
I have NEVER seen a penny in Royalties from my other 10 Albums I recorded. Our Hit Song was licensed to over 100 Films, T.V. & Commercials WITHOUT our permission. One Major TV Network used our song for a national Commercial and my payment was $625. dollars. I am now 72, trying to live on $1200 a month. Sweet Relief, a music charity is taking donations for me.
Only the 1% of Artist can afford to sue.
I AM THE 99%"
The note was penned by Lester Chambers, lead singer of “The Chambers Brothers”, a Mississippi quintet who became enormously successful following the release of their 1968 hit “Time Has Come Today”.
“The Chambers Brothers” released 17 albums, and their songs appeared on more than 200 compilation albums.
Their music backgrounded films, TV shows and commercials.
And yet, “The Chambers Brothers” did not reap the fruits of their labors. In 2010, Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon found Lester Chambers, then 70, sleeping in a recording studio rehearsal room. He had been living there for years.
The company that “owned” Lester’s music and diligently collected its income had a roster of highly paid lawyers and crack accountants and flew its executives to lobbying sessions with legislators on corporate jets.
Anyone who’s ever watched a documentary about a famous band knows there’s the inevitable point where the artist discovers the record company fucked them and there’s no more money.
But Canadian members of Parliament and bureaucrats in Heritage don’t need to look beyond our own borders to find identical stories.
A few years ago, I was driving with Dominic Troiano, famed Canadian rock guitarist and the composer on a series I was producing. I stuck a CD in the dash and Dom reacted to the track. It was his, but he’d never heard of the compilation album on which it appeared.
And, of course, he’d never been paid for its use.
A few years ago, the Writers Guild of Canada was forced to drop hundreds of royalty and fee payment grievances against one of the country’s largest television producers. They, like “The Chambers Brothers” could simply no longer afford the legal costs of taking on an intransigent media giant.
And the Canadian government actively participates in the copyright abuse of Canadian artists as well.
Telefilm and the Canadian Media Fund have both provided Millions of taxpayer dollars funding scripts credited to artists who did not write them but had a close relationship to the companies which produced them.
Even that paragon of national trust, the CBC, has strong-armed artists into accepting less than they were actually owed for their work.
I personally know a half dozen writers who challenged royalty settlements from the Mother Corp and ended up receiving as much as TEN TIMES what CBC executives claimed was a full and proper accounting.
A forensic accountant once told me that the only way to change what is a continuing pattern of criminal activity at the corporate level is to start charging and jailing the lawyers and accountants who help hide what companies get away with.
If that’s why the government is building all these new prisons, I’m all for it.
But an equally effective method would be to dump bill C-11, stop listening to those who have made it a practice of hiding what they owe to artists and write a bill that protects the true creatives.
If governments can argue that $12,000 in services per homeless person can save $55,000 in police and institutional costs…
If they can make the case that providing free contraceptives save millions in abortion fees, medical costs and providing for unwanted children…
Then it shouldn’t be too hard to simply write a copyright law which requires artists be compensated according to their contractual agreements with media companies and have their copyrights protected.
Time Has Come.