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Artists coalition makes final push to change copyright bill

Canadian artists are making a last-ditch effort to change new copyright legislation before it goes to Parliament for a final vote next month.

An unprecedented coalition of 68 groups representing visual artists, performers, writers, composers, musicians and publishers has presented a parliamentary committee with 20 possible technical amendments to Bill C-11, the government's proposed copyright law, the Canadian Conference of the Arts said on Tuesday.

"It's never happened before that in copyright you have so many people signing off on a decision," said Alain Pineau, national director of the CCA, which spearheaded the coalition. "The government may not like what it is hearing, but you can't say we are all over the map."

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The coalition, which argues that the bill so favours consumers it will unfairly deprive artists of income, is asking the government to make sure all the exceptions it will provide comply with an international test for fair copyright. That test, known as the Berne three-step test, requires that exceptions are special cases that don't conflict with normal exploitation of a work and don't prejudice the interests of the rights holder. For example, the artists argue that the bill's exemption for user-generated content is written so broadly musicians would not be able to license their music for third-party YouTube videos in the way they are currently doing in the United States, thus depriving them of potential income.

The group is also seeking to narrow the bill's exemption for educational uses, so that it specifically states that means uses by educational institutions such as schools and universities.

The committee has until March 29 to report before the bill heads to the House of Commons for third reading. Larger media producers have generally been supportive of the proposed law while consumer advocates have complained about provisions that allow producers to use digital locks to prevent copying of content.

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About the Author

Kate Taylor is lead film critic at the Globe and Mail and a columnist in the arts section. More

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