Major Labels Accused of Massive Copyright Infringement in Canada
By James Grahame
Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada have been hit with a huge copyright infringement suit.
Copyright expert Michael Geist explains, "The CRIA members were hit with the lawsuit [PDF] in October 2008, after
artists decided to turn to the courts following decades of frustration
with the rampant infringement (I am adviser to the Canadian Internet
Policy and Public Interest Clinic, which is co-counsel, but have had no
involvement in the case). The claims arise from a longstanding practice
of the recording industry in Canada, described in the lawsuit as 'exploit now, pay later if at all.' It involves the use of works that
are often included in compilation CDs (ie. the top dance tracks of
2009) or live recordings. The record labels create, press, distribute,
and sell the CDs, but do not obtain the necessary copyright licenses.
Instead, the names of the songs on the CDs are placed on a 'pending list', which signifies that approval and payment is pending. The pending list dates back to the late 1980s, when Canada changed its copyright law by replacing a compulsory licence with the need for specific authorization for each use. It is perhaps better characterized as a copyright infringement admission list, however, since for each use of the work, the record label openly admits that it has not obtained copyright permission and not paid any royalty or fee."
The suit claims that over 300,000 songs are involved, and the class action plaintiffs are seeking the option of statutory damages for each infringement, a move that could result in a multi-billion dollar judgment.
As a Canadian who has suffered through years of unproven accusations that Canadian citizens are lawless pirates, I find it ironic that some of the most vocal accusers now stand accused of being the most prolific music pirates in Canadian history.
Geist: Record industry faces liability over 'infringement' [Toronto Star]