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Senate Banking Committee: Report on the Copyright Board

Study on the Operation and Practices of the Copyright Board

Seventh Report of Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the seventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, entitled Copyright Board: A rationale for urgent review, tabled in the Senate on November 30, 2016.

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, the five-year statutory review of the Copyright Act will take place in 2017. In the Senate Banking Committee's seventh report tabled last Thursday in the chamber by our colleague Senator Day, we strongly recommended that when that review takes place, it include a thorough examination of the Copyright Board. I'm here to explain why that is.

The Copyright Board, as we know it, was established in 1989. It was the successor to the copyright appeal board, which, in one form or another, has been around since 1930. In 1997, its jurisdiction was expanded to include the administration of copyright tariffs with collective societies: Music Canada; the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada; the Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada; and the like.

The board is a regulatory body in effect that sets the tariffs or fees to be paid for the use of copyrighted works when the administration of that work is entrusted to one of these collectives.

Senators, when I became Chair of the Banking Committee, I made it my mission to embark on what the members agreed were important studies for Canadians, but also, when a particular issue arose that we thought was urgent and relevant, to be flexible and nimble enough in our operations to stop and take a look at that issue. The committee fully agreed. Our review of the Copyright Board was one of these issues.

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What we were hearing is that there were problems with how long it took for the board to come to decisions on tariffs, creating uncertainty in the marketplace — and that these problems were chronic, nearly as old as the board itself. With the Copyright Act review coming due next year, we thought it timely to take a quick look at the board, to bring them in, as well as the collective societies and some academic experts.

We held two hearings in early November, and what we heard is that the board is badly in need of reform. Its members are part- time, and the time it takes to reach decisions is well beyond the norm for a regulatory body such as this. What we heard from one of the witnesses is that, on average, the time between the filing of a tariff proposal and the board's decision regarding that tariff was 3.5 years over the period from 1999 to 2013. In addition, this witness also estimated that the backlog of tariffs for which a decision has yet to be made has been pending for a period of approximately seven years, on average. That's a long time.

We also heard that the board itself began an internal review in 2012. But four years later, it has yet to be completed.

All our witnesses agreed that the board needs to be fixed, whether it requires more resources, full-time members or a change in the regulations governing it. What we concluded from our two hearings is that the best way to get this done — to get some real action — is for the board to be included and thoroughly examined with a view toward reform during the statutory review of the Copyright Act next year.

That review, at the minister's instructions, can be conducted by a committee of the house, of the Senate, or both. I think the Senate would have a lot to contribute to that review, but whichever route the minister decides to take, I look forward to his implementing our recommendation when he does.

Finally, I want to thank my colleagues on the committee for the excellent work they did on this report, along with the staff from the Clerk's office, the library and communications. I especially want to thank Senator Joe Day, who filled in for me all last week as chair and participated with Senator Black in the press conference on the report last Friday. Thank you both. I know that you, along with the other members and I, agree on at least one thing: It's time to reform the Copyright Board.