Canadian Songwriters Want to Legalize File-Sharing

While most of the major entertainment industry companies wage war against BitTorrent sites, the Songwriters Association of Canada prefers to embrace file-sharing. Speaking with TorrentFreak, vice president Jean-Robert Bisaillon says that the Internet has revived the music business. Sharing music is part of people's nature and the songwriters want to legalize file-sharing, while compensating the artists whose works are shared.

sacWith prominent members such Bryan Adams, Eddie Schwartz, Randy Bachman and Carole Pope among its ranks, the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) is the voice of more than 1,500 Canadian artists.

In common with many of the groups tied to the music industry, SAC has a strong opinion about file-sharing. But unlike most of the others, they don’t want to shutter sites that allow people to share copyrighted music. Quite the opposite.

SAC believes that consumers should have access to all the music in the world, something that only file-sharing sites provide today. So instead of shutting these sites down the songwriters association wants to legalize file-sharing, while compensating the artists whose works are shared.

“People have always shared music and always will. The music we share defines who we are, and who our friends and peers are. The importance of music in the fabric of our own culture, as well as those around the world, is inextricably bound to the experience of sharing,” SAC writes in a detailed proposal.

According to the association, file-sharing should be framed as an opportunity rather than a threat to the music industry. To prove this point, SAC is trying to convince other stakeholders that it’s a good idea to monetize file-sharing through some sort of licensing system for consumers.

“Music file-sharing is a vibrant, open, global distribution system for music of all kinds, and presents a tremendous opportunity to both creators and rights-holders. Additionally, once a fair and reasonable monetization system is in place, all stakeholders including consumers and Internet service providers will benefit substantially.”

“By monetizing behavior rather than any specific technology, music creators and rights-holders will lay the foundations for a business model that can continue for decades rather than attempting the almost impossible task of trying to monetize the ever shortening cycle of changing technology,” SAC writes.

With the above, the Association indirectly criticizes the rigid stance of the major labels and the RIAA when it comes to technical innovation. Whether it’s the invention of radio, the cassette tape or file-sharing, they continuously view new technology as a threat instead of something that could help to expand the popularity of music.

To learn more about the ambitious proposal TorrentFreak got in touch with SAC vice president Jean-Robert Bisaillon, who told us that he hopes to make other key players in the music industry aware of the power and value of sharing.

“We think the practice [of file-sharing] is great and unstoppable. This is why we want to establish a regime that allows everyone to keep on doing it without stigmatizing the public and, instead, find a way for artists and rights holders to be fairly compensated for the music files that are being shared,” Bisaillon told us.

“Other positive aspects include being able to find music that is not available in the commercial realm offer, finding a higher quality of digital files, being able to afford music even if you are poor and being able to discover new artists or recommend them to friends.”

SAC’s vice president further notes that not everything the big labels do is in the best interest of musicians and artists. While Bisaillon recognizes that many artists still depend on these companies, he and other songwriters don’t necessarily agree with all their practices.

“The big labels will try to control the market as long as they can and as long as they think the market will generate revenue even if the revenue is the result of legal action. They will try to hook up with whichever commercial endeavor they think might help maintain their control in the marketplace even if this means unfair remuneration for content providers,” Bisaillon says.

“In parallel they will try to discourage any option that may diminish their control even if this means using threats or disinformation. They have the money and contacts to lobby governments in support for their vision. We see our role as developing and providing alternate means of access to music that are good for consumers and creators alike.”

According to Bisaillon the Internet is a blessing, perhaps not for the big music labels, but certainly for musicians and consumers.

“Music is much better off with the Web. The internet network allows for musical discovery despite distance and time of the day. It has sparked collaborations between musicians unimaginable before. It has helped artists to book international tours without expensive long-distances charges and postal delays we knew before,” he told us.

“The Internet has dramatically increased the private non-commercial sharing of music, which we support. All that is missing a means to compensate music creators for this massive use of their work.”

To make this final step SAC is actively talking to all the stakeholders involved, including consumer groups, rights holders and content providers to make their file-sharing license reality.

Although this final step may turn out to be a giant leap for most of the parties involved, it is essential that a prominent association of artists sees the upside to file-sharing. This is a welcome contrast to the repressive stance we are used to hearing from the RIAA and CRIA.

While the “monetize file-sharing” proposal is not necessarily ideal as it has many challenges of its own, SAC’s stance does touch the essence of the ‘problem’. Instead of adding restrictions, the music industry should find ways to give consumers unlimited access to all the music in the world for a fair price.

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