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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The sky is falling. Wait, nevermind.
At 10:18am today the Canadian Recording Industry Association sent out an e-mail to report the imminent demise of one of "Canada's treasured cultural assets" - the Tragically Hip. It seemed the stuff of parody, but apparently they were quite serious.

Over the last five weeks, they report, there have been 500,000 attempts to illegally download the Tragically Hip's new single, Vaccination Scar. Over the same period, 1,000 copies of the song have been downloaded through legal means for the low-low price of 99 cents.

There is no indication as to how they determined the first number. We're just supposed to take their word for it, cos, you know, they're the record industry and they have no vested interest in the matter and would never even think of fibbing about such stuff.

This news was followed by several long testimonials from Jann Arden, Kathleen Edwards and the Hip's Gord Sinclair, among others, informing us of what a deep and troubling crisis this and how we're defaming their art and blah, blah, blah...

"Don't get me wrong. Anything that gets people into music is okay with me, but at some point people have to recognize their role in the creative process," Sinclair explains.

See you, the consumer, needn't feel like there is a wide chasm between you and the rock stars you love. Because you have a part in the creative process - specifically paying lots of money.

Better still was economic historian Jann Arden: "Unless these downloads are monitored and artists are compensated for their work, there will be NO work to download."

Yes, yes... if everyone keeps downloading, music will cease to exist as an art form. No one will ever tour again or perform in public or commit their art to tape of CD because it won't make them rich and famous and they'll all have to get jobs at the Gap.

Does anyone really believe that? Because if you really did get into music solely for the purpose of being rich and famous with so little passion for your work, well, you'll likely end up working at the Gap one way or another.

So anyway. For fun, go to the news section of the Tragically Hip's website. There you will find that those 1,000 legal downloads are cause for celebration - in fact, it made Vaccination Scar THE MOST DOWNLOADED SONG FROM PURETRACKS.COM!

So is it that people are a bunch of freeloading jerks looking to destroy the Tragically Hip, or is it rather a case of Pure Tracks not being all that popular a service just yet?

Nonetheless, the basic message remains the same - you, the Canadian consumer, need to start holding up your end of the bargain... erm, sorry, the "creative process." That is, you need to start paying for the creation of all those songs you keep downloading for free.

Thing is, YOU ALREADY DO because the Canadian music industry receives millions upon millions of your tax dollars each year - through funding programs like FACTOR and through those pesky little CD and tape levies (that were designed specifically to counter piracy, it's worth noting). Those would be the same tax grabs the music industry is currently fighting to save (see SaveCanadianMusic.com).

So in CRIA's utopia consumers should first hand over their tax dollars, then walk over to HMV or log on to PureTracks and cough up an additional $10-20 for the CD, THEY ALREADY PAID FOR. Brilliant that.

***

At 9:54pm, CRIA sent out another press release. This one celebrating a great victory - a Heritage committee's recommendations to change the copyright laws, as CRIA had requested.

“We commend Committee Chair Sam Bulte and the other Heritage Committee members on making decisions in a few weeks that the departments of Canadian Heritage and Industry Canada couldn’t make in several years,” remarked CRIA president Brian Robertson.

The legislation wouldn't be introduced to Parliament until November, meaning it remains very much in question with a federal election set to occur between now and then.

But it'd be interesting to hear Paul "Democratic Deficit" Martin explain how this committee was so quick to recommend changes. It surely wouldn't be because the Heritage Minister had already vowed to make said changes, rendering said committee rather moot, would it?

The Minister couldn't even be bothered to be diplomatic about it - funny considering that a committee of parliament was still considering the issue:

"As minister of Canadian Heritage, I will, as quickly as possible, make changes to our copyright law," she said during the Junos in Edmonton.

Well then. I'm sure the committee members were delighted to learn at that point that their further efforts would not be required.

***

And for the life of me I can't figure out why the average music-loving kid would be the least bit cynical about the adults who keep telling him to stop downloading...

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