Revenues from the private copying levy and the recovery in times of pandemic*
* Letter sent to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honorable Steven Guilbeault, September 22, 2020
Although I am a recording artist, it is as Chairperson of the Artisti Board of Directors that I am writing to you today.
Before getting into the subject of my letter, I would first like to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister of Canadian Heritage. Having followed and supported you in your projects related to the protection of the environment, such as Équiterre, I know how devoted and honest you are. It is therefore with confidence that I look forward to the exchanges between Artisti and your ministry because we are driven by similar values. Indeed, just like you, Artisti is committed to equity, solidarity and sustainable development.
Founded in 1997, Artisti is a copyright collective management organization with over 5,500 members that primarily administers royalties for performers taking part in sound recordings. It manages (and soon I will perhaps have to say managed…) in particular the right to the remuneration deriving from the Private Copying levy.
I am addressing you today because after years of approaches, appeals, demands for fair remuneration for music rights holders in connection with the private copying of music, it is clear that in this very difficult period of pandemic for the music industry, we need even more probative help from you in order to move this file forward. Therefore, I ask for your support for our cause.
On July 7, Artisti, and the vast majority of companies and associations in the music sector in Canada, sent a letter in which they alerted you to the fact that private copying, which is an important source of income ( especially for performers), is disappearing despite the fact that Canadians are making more copies of music than ever before. The reason for this disappearance is that private copying royalties are only levied on blank CDs, an audio medium that has fallen into disuse.
Meanwhile, some 5.95 billion sound recordings of music are currently being played on Canadians’ smartphones and tablets, and half of those copies have not been licensed nor contributed to the payment of royalties. Despite these copies that are made of their music, the creators do not perceive the sums which should be paid to them in compensation for said copies and this, because of an obsolete private copying regime.
I am not in the habit of talking about my income or success as a performer in the music industry but I decided to show you that when we say that these private copying royalties are essential for performers of the music sector, it is not empty words.
Indeed, by analyzing the payments made to me by Artisti over the years, I see the following:
The year of royalties for which I received the most royalties from private copying (i.e. 2005), my private copying royalties as a performing artist (I am not talking about my income as an author, composer or producer) then amounted to nearly $ **** and represented nearly 49% of the Canadian performer royalties that I received from Artisti that year. As for the last year that I received private copying royalties, in 2017, the sums I received represented only 2.4% of the total Canadian performer royalties that Artisti sent me for the year in question.
I am aware of my fame, of my success, and I understand that it was normal that I received a significant amount in the heyday of private copying and that this is not the case for everyone. That said, I am not a star of international stature either and I can tell you that at the time, such a sum made a significant difference for my livelihood, and today, in a period when all the artists of the music industry are so affected by the pandemic, it would make a huge impact.
It is important to understand that it is not because my music is copied less for private purposes that my private copying royalties have decreased to this point, but rather because there are hardly any sums left from the private copying that are levied, given the fact that only blank CD sales are subject to royalties – an aberration as far as I am concerned!
Is there no way to ensure that the multinationals, which make so much profit on the sale of electronic devices (one of the attractions of which is that they allow copied music to be stored for private use), are involved?
On August 23, 2018, the newspaper Le Devoir published a text by Mr. Marcel Boyer, one of the most eminent economists in the country, which text was entitled: “Le vol du siècle : la copie privée ”. In this opinion piece, the famous economist exposed the decline of private copying royalties in Canada and compared with jurisdictions such as France, Italy, Germany and Sweden where such royalties are levied on electronic devices, thus generating significant financial compensation for rights holders whose creations are copied for private purposes.
Why does Canada not keep pace with what these countries and many others are doing? Can we in all fairness rely on the reasons given by the Harper government for not extending the collection of royalties to electronic devices and which Professor Boyer reports in his opinion piece?
To allow private copying of music without compensation for those who create it is to unreasonably deprive them of an important source of income. Furthermore, in this period of crisis, this source of income is becoming vital for performers in the music industry who can no longer (or rarely) perform live, who have been delayed in their recording sessions and who receive virtually nothing from streaming revenue of their music.
These artists invest time and effort to develop a career and wish to retain a sense of continuity. I don’t know if it’s possible to talk about sustainable development when referring to a career in the music industry or the music ecosystem in general, but knowing the causes that are close to your heart, this is the first image that comes to mind.
In the darkest hours of the lockdown, the Canadians found great comfort in listening to the private copies of music they had made on their various devices while the artists whose music was being copied received absolutely nothing in compensation for those copies of their music.
When we know that the levying of a small royalty on devices that are used to copy music would make little difference in the price of a device but that it would make a significant difference for the livelihood of artists whose music is copied, it seems that extending private copying to all devices for copying music is the right thing to do and would certainly allow the performers Artisti represents to benefit from income that can help them overcome this crisis and to continue to create their art and contribute to the sustainability of Canadian music and culture.
If you wish to speak more fully about this topic which is close to my heart and which is vital for all those who make a living from music, I will be happy to come and meet with you so that we can find a fair solution to this situation which has affected artists for so long. If there is one solution that can help the music industry at this difficult time, it is for those who benefit from private copies of music to contribute to the levy that has been introduced to make such copies legal.
Chairperson of the Artisti Board of Directors