A who's who of Canadian music along with numerous prominent Canadian writers are asking the federal government to fix what they call the broken creativity business. A group of 1,000 Canadian artists will issue an open letter to Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly Tuesday asking Ottawa to remember creators as it revises its cultural policies.
The list of artists represents an unusual collaboration between the music and literary communities, both of which have been hit hard by digital technology that distributes their work widely without paying them much money.
The signatories of the letter include musicians Gord Downie, Alanis Morissette, Blue Rodeo, Barenaked Ladies, Grimes, Gordon Lightfoot, Jann Arden, Michael Bublé, Randy Bachman, Bryan Adams, Royal Wood, The Sheepdogs and Metric, as well as authors Marie-Claire Blais, Guy Gavriel Kay, Rosemary Sullivan and Rudy Wiebe.
They argue that despite their creativity and innovation, many of them are being squeezed out of a marketplace that monetizes digital distribution without fairly paying content creators: "The middle-class artist is being eliminated from the Canadian economy.
Full-time creativity is becoming a thing of the past," the letter says. "The carefully designed laws and regulations of the 1990s were intended to ensure that both Canadian creators and technological innovators would benefit from digital developments. We hoped that new technology would enrich the cultural experiences for artists and consumers alike.
Unfortunately, this has not happened," the letter continues. "Instead, our work is increasingly used to monetize technology without adequately remunerating its creators. Income and profit from digital use of our work flow away from the creative class to a concentrated technology industry. Allowing this trend to continue will result in dramatically fewer Canadians being able to afford to "tell Canadian stories," much less earn a reasonable living from doing so."
Joly is currently undertaking a review of Canadian cultural policies, many of which are in dire need of updating to reflect technological change. The artists want their economic needs considered in that review but also point out that Canada's copyright law, last updated in 2012 to include some consumer-friendly changes that were harshly criticized by the creative community, is up for review again in 2017.