The House of Commons industry committee is urging the government to look at ways for visual artists to make money every time their work is resold – not just on the initial sale.
The recommendation is one of many the Liberal majority on the industry committee (INDU) made in their review of the Copyright Act tabled in the House this week. It follows a call from the heritage committee last month to modernize Canada’s copyright regime, which critics say has not kept up with new technology.
The committee also spent considerable time studying Indigenous copyright issues, with recommendations that the government consult with Indigenous stakeholders on creating an Indigenous art registry, establishing an organization to advocate for the interest of Indigenous creators, and grant Indigenous people the right to manage their traditional art forms.
Dan Ruimy, the Liberal chair of the committee, said that studying Indigenous artwork was an important part of the review.
“The way we’re moving forward with reconciliation as a country – how could we not include First Nations in there,” he said.
One of the report’s recommendations was for the federal government to consult with provinces and territories on the cost and benefit of implementing artist’s resale rights. The committee heard from witnesses who advised the government to implement resale rights entitling visual artists to a payment of 5 per cent any time their work is resold publicly.
April Britski, the national executive director of Canadian Artists Representation Le Front Des Artistes Canadiens, said the fee is a means to compensate artists for their work, saying that more than 90 countries have implemented resale rights.
“It has been a really important income source for artists elsewhere, and it’s something we’d really like to happen,” she said.
The report said that while resale rights should be implemented on a national level, it could come into conflict with provincial jurisdiction.
Dan Albas, the Conservative vice-chair on INDU, said copyright isn’t the place to look at resale rights. The Conservative Party of Canada advised against the implementation of resale rights in a dissenting report.
“We’re talking about real, tangible property versus the ownership right of a song or a picture,” he said.
The study also nodded to a report from the heritage committee that recommended the government establish artist’s resale rights as a way to combat the growing disparity between the content Canadians enjoy and the revenue artists receive for their work, referred to as a “value gap.”
The reason for the gap, the report said, is that remuneration models have failed to keep up with technology. New platforms allow users to easily stream content, and piracy is rampant.
Brian Masse, the NDP vice-chair on INDU, said that although much revenue is being generated by art forms in Canada, artists receive the last “scraps of the economic pie.”
He said INDU is looking for direction on resale rights from the heritage committee.
In dissenting reports, both the New Democrats and the Conservatives recommended abolishing Crown copyright – material government departments produced.
The committee report recommended the government adopt open-licensing practices to improve management of Crown copyright, citing national security as one of the reasons for its continued existence.
Mr. Masse said Crown copyright is an unnecessary hurdle for researchers. Economic papers, reports and materials that could benefit innovation are either redacted, denied, or met with conditions of release, Mr. Masse said, equating the practice to the “muzzling of scientists.”
But Mr. Ruimy said provinces rely on some Crown copyright and evidence the committee heard suggested they need to be careful with it.