Friday, August 13, 2010

one (more) artist's opinion

(image courtesy Ladies of the Canyon, and Kindling Music)

Montreal singer, songwriter and member of the band Ladies of the Canyon, Maia Davies, has published an op-ed in the Montreal Gazette, expressing her passion for working as an artist, and her disappointment over illegal downloading.

You can see the full op-ed here, and here are some key quotes:

"I am an artist by choice, just as others choose to follow other careers. Whatever one does for a living, we're all expected to follow the economic and political norms that define our society, and to obey the law. Particularly in a social-minded nation like Canada, we also respect the greater good along with individual rights. One of these rights is for workers and employers to be compensated for the goods and services they sell."

"The government of Canada took an important step to correct this situation when it introduced Bill C-32. Some people have raised objections. If those objections are based on a desire for better consumer access to creative works, count me in. But that isn't really what we are talking about here. This discussion really comes down to Canadian workers' rights to fair compensation for services rendered."

Well said, Ms. Davies.

These days, speaking your mind publicly about a working artist's right to protect their copyright can feel a lot like extending your head through that comfy little neck rest on a guillotine.

As I have documented a number of times, artists and other professional creators are regularly attacked as elite, out-of-touch, and greedy if they dare to express concern about the popular and widespread copyright infringements of the day. Browse through the comments section of any Boing Boing anti-copyright posting and you'll get a sense of the enmity and anger with which artists are greeted when they speak out about their rights.

Which is why I so admire the artists who do speak out. No one I know is in the art-biz in order to alienate and anger potential fans; and everyone I know in the art-biz just groaned a bit when I used the term "art-biz." The primary driver for entering a career in the arts is almost never economic. In fact, it's often quite uncomfortable for the artists I know to talk about money, since a) that's not what their art is really about, and b) there isn't a whole lot of money to talk about anyway.

Ms. Davies can now count on being aggressively (and often rudely) confronted on her personal views by anti-copyright activists who really, really just want to explain to her how she is wrong to feel the way she feels and how her views on C-32, digital locks, music and art belong to the last century and simply don't fit with where the world is going. She can expect to be pestered on Twitter and Facebook, and almost certainly yelled at while she's on stage at her next concert. That is, sadly, the atmosphere in which principled, concerned artists in Canada are now expected to work -- one of perpetual defensive justification. I tell you, from experience, it can be pretty hard on the art part of one's life.

I intend to pester Ms. Davies in my own way, to thank her for the courageous op-ed and for her concerns about Canadian art. I will pester her to take my money, as I (legally) download the debut Ladies of the Canyon album (and maybe buy me one of them attractive LOTC t-shirts). If I ever have the pleasure of meeting her, she can also count on being pestered for an autograph.

I leave you with this. Happy weekend everyone:

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Quentin said...

Agreed. The response of is so predictable it's pathetic. Glad to hear Maia speak out.

inb4 the haters!

Gruesome said...

I guess we'll have to disagree, I believe artists were granted these rights for the common good as copyright was intended. So that the artist may profit and thus society profits more.
However the public should not have to give up their rights either and yes we are talking about that.
What I find most discouraging is that on both sides are leaders who will always take the us vs them attitude.
If this continues I'm almost certain that both sides will lose and society as a whole will be the poorer for it.

Darryl said...

"inb4 the haters"

LOL, the blinkered narcissism I see here is truly breathtaking.

With regards to this article. I do understand where Davies is coming from. I do. She has traditionally made her living off of selling recordings. Now file sharing is threatening that and she wants to protect her way of life. I understand the fear that new technology (and even worse, new technology in the hands of the masses) can instil in her, and you.

The proposed solution of legal protection for digital locks, and even worse, legal protection for digital locks that can over rule fair dealing and tangible private property rights, is a 'solution' (and I use that word very liberally because it wont do one damn thing about file sharing) which is far worse than the ailment it is meant to cure. Not for her perhaps, nor for any of the established creators and industries build around them. But it is for everyone else including new creators.

Unfortunately she simply dismisses these concerns as being "overly dramatized". There is much in Bill C-32 which is a step in the right direction. There is some stuff which I think goes in the wrong direction. The provision around digital locks is a monumental failure which will cause harm for many years to come. It is unfortunate that she, and others from the established creator industries cannot or will not see the harm that will be caused down the road. And what is worse, from what I have seen, they are unwilling to even discuss it.

Digital locks, and these digital locks with their over broad reach may indeed be the ONLY way to save some of these traditional means. (But they would actually have to go a lot further before they'd actually be effective) The cost however is too high. But what to do then? I think a serious discussion is needed regarding the purpose of copyright and what can be done to compensate for where it now fails. This conversation is long over due, but I fear it will be a lot longer before we actually get around to it. Before we can have that discussion people are going to have to learn what the limits on copyright are, and why it is not capable of protecting traditional rights as it use to without causing far more serious problems.

Sadly it does not matter how well one makes this point, how succinct their argument is. When the person they are arguing with only sees a 'hater' then the argument isn't going to get very far.

John said...

Oh Darryl,

It is rich indeed for you to start handing down lectures about principled debate and civil conversation.

Sometimes it seems to me that all I do is discuss the details and nuances of copyright, how traditional ways are changing, and how consumer practice and the law can keep pace; and you have genuinely helped me in that conversation.... never.

The "serious discussion" you feel is needed is already happening -- and you're not part of it. Not because artists can't handle the truth you're generously offering; but because serious people in the cultural sector need to have their conversations with folks who have a clue.

I hear so often -- "if you only understood the technology the way I do." Well, as deflating as it may be to hear this, the technology is not that mysterious.

Maybe you should back up a bit and restart your serious conversation after you understand what it's like to be a working artist. Really understand it, in your skin.

You could start by having another look at Maia Davies in that video. Does she look old enough to have "traditionally made her living off of selling recordings"?

This is an artist who came of age in the era of filesharing and the myth of free music -- and she's not buying a word of it. There's a reason. Learn it.

Pieter Hulshoff said...

Dear John,

We've had anti-circumvention laws against locks on films and music in the US and Europe for about 12 years now. Can you point me to 1 example where such locks have been successful in preventing copyright infringement (or as Maia Davies says: "But they are needed to safeguard intellectual property.") or where laws against circumvention have prevented copyright infringement?

I can understand her frustration with the ongoing copyright infringement, even though her thoughts about losing revenue are not backed by independent studies, but I fail to see how anti-circumvention laws will help her.

Yes, I'm familiar with your views on anti-circumvention laws, but that view is not what Maia Davies is promoting here. She seems to believe it will actually impact copyright infringement.

Darryl said...

"The "serious discussion" you feel is needed is already happening"

I realise you believe this. Unfortunately you're not having the right conversation. You are discussing how we can force current copyright norms to be as effective as they used to be despite advances in technology. The conversation we need to have is to discuss where copyright FAILS to work as effectively as it use to and what, IF ANYTHING can be done about it.

"I hear so often -- "if you only understood the technology the way I do." Well, as deflating as it may be to hear this, the technology is not that mysterious. "

I am so glad to here this. Perhaps you can enlighten the rest of us as to exactly how technology is going to help prevent filesharing. I understand it works so well in the States. NOT!

I'll quote myself this time:
"This conversation is long over due, but I fear it will be a lot longer before we actually get around to it. Before we can have that discussion people are going to have to learn what the limits on copyright are, and why it is not capable of protecting traditional rights as it use to without causing far more serious problems."

The only reason I haven't "genuinely helped" your understanding John, is that you're not listening, as your reply so aptly demonstrates.

"Maybe you should back up a bit and restart your serious conversation after you understand what it's like to be a working artist. Really understand it, in your skin."

While admittedly an artist's perspective is a valuable one in the discussion, it is by far, not the only one, nor even the most important one, as your statement so implies.

Indeed, it is because creators, and their representatives are the only ones at the discussion table that we see the only solution being sought is force-fitting current methods into a new economy. If your only tool is a hammer then everything starts to look like a nail. As the saying goes.

John said...


I believe you, and many others, conflate the ideas of "discouraging" and "stopping" infringement.

Whereas the determined true believers will almost always go out of their way to prove they can break any TPM and get at any content someone wants locked, the vast majority of regular consumers just want a set of rules, practices and prices that don't seem to shift around every few minutes. Not much of that has been possible in this recent period of technological upheaval, but I believe it will settle into place given the chance to do so.

The solution to the current problems of copyright will be legal, not technological. I won't speak for Ms. Davies, but I interpret her op-ed to be about law.

I think the whole issue of whether or not digital locks "work" to stop piracy has always been a red herring in the debate. Even Geist accepts levels of straight anti-circumvention -- or claims to, anyway.

Pieter Hulshoff said...


I doubt Professor Geist accepts a level of straight anti-circumvention. He just realizes we were all stupid enough to sign a WIPO treaty that demands it, and tries to limit the damage it will do within the boundaries of that agreement.

With regards to "discouraging" infringement: someone who infringes copyright never encounters any of those digital locks, just like they never encounter those senseless FBI warnings at the start of a dvd. The only thing those locks do is piss off the customers that bought the real thing. The infringers just get theirs from a friend, usenet, P2P, FTP, email, mail, the seller on the corner, on which those things have already been removed. I'm sorry, but: No, it will not even "discourage" infringement.

In the mean time, under anti-circumvention laws I'm not allowed to write an Open Source dvd player, Blu-ray player, iTunes player, or any other player that interfaces with locked, but legally purchased material. This puts me at a great disadvantage as a software engineer.

Mike said...

I read Maia's op-ed, and I think there are a few interesting things worth pointing out:

1. The use of TPMs to protect music has decreased dramatically in the last couple years, with many online music stores offering DRM-free music. This, in spite of increased protection for TPM in the States (and other countries). Therefore, I don't think it's fair to say "But they [Digital Locks] are needed to safeguard intellectual property".

Ultimately, whether or not TPM is effective in safeguarding intellectual property is not that important. I think natural market pressures will eventually force all digital content to be TPM free, or at least towards TPM measures which are considerably more consumer friendly than the ones currently used.


2. Why should TPM be allowed to trump fair dealing and private property rights? Should artists be allowed to use TPM to protect their works? Sure! Should users be allowed to circumvent those measures for legal purposes (read: fair dealing)? Of course!

There is no reason why Bill C-32 cannot provide legal protection for TPMs and allow circumvention for ANY legal purpose.

I find this so called "debate" interesting since we can easily see the impact of laws like C-32 by reviewing the situation in the US. And what I think you see is a situation which most people don't respect the law, since it forbids numerous activities which are allowed under fair use, but which are made illegal simply because of DRM.

A law which recognizes that consumers have the right to format-shift, time-shift and backup any content they have legally acquired - among other fair uses - would be one which would be both respected, and thus followed by most people.

Darryl said...

"Whereas the determined true believers will almost always go out of their way to prove they can break any TPM and get at any content someone wants locked, the vast majority of regular consumers just want a set of rules, practices and prices that don't seem to shift around every few minutes. Not much of that has been possible in this recent period of technological upheaval, but I believe it will settle into place given the chance to do so."

John. Thank you. But this is still a flawed argument. What exactly does having a consistent set of rules have to do with TPM? Do we not already have a consistent set of rules? I.E. Copyright law. If anything TPM makes the rules totally arbitrary and at the whim of the publisher, and I don't think consumers are knocking down anybodies door asking for TPMs on their iPhones.

If TPM's are needed to dissuade average consumers who would not otherwise go out of their way to circumvent them, then why do they need legal protection at all, let alone legal protection that necessarily infringes my rights as a physical property owner, or Russell's rights to make competitive software in a free market, or countless other peoples fair dealings rights ?

These legal protections grant new distribution monopolies to intermediaries and strip individuals of their own property rights.

You say "the solution to the current problems of copyright will be legal, not technological." by which I assume you are referring, at least in part, to the digital lock protection. No one, including you, has made the case for why these laws are necessary, or how they will be in the least bit effective. Your own statement suggests they are unnecessary for your needs. So why are you defending them?

Anonymous said...

So many comments regarding TPMs and if they "work" or that they can be broken so simply it's not worth it ... it's astounding to me that that's what people take away form Maia's piece. She's talking about people distributing her music for free without her persmission or her sharing in the proceeds from the sale of advertising on torrent sites etc. Just once I'd like to see the folks who spend time on the TPM actually "man up" and agree that distribution without permission or compensation is theft ... after that I'm happy to discuss how to seperate personal backup, fair use etc but until then I see a large group of people who want stuff for free.

Alexis said...

It is great to see artist support each other and speak out about how hard it can be to make a living in the music, book, and film industry

Gruesome said...

Anonymous, I can't "man up" or agree that distribution without permission or compensation is theft. It's not technically correct or even legally correct.
Theft is a word used by copyright extremists who are more emotional about the issue then logical.
I can say without hesitation that distribution without permission is wrong. I would say that rather than theft it is more likened to devaluing the work at issue. The copyright owner should be entitled to compensation.
So having admitted that it's at least wrong, can you consider how I might pursue things such as copy my DVD's into a library of files I may call on at any time to watch on my TV
I find the whole thing of physical DVD's and CD's extremely annoying to deal with. Itunes has dealt with one problem, perhaps Netflix will deal with the other.
I simply want control of my own physical property, I will not have invisible strings tied to my property or key holders to that property outside of my home.
I fear at some point TPM's may work and I don't trust that the current corporate held monopoly will deal fairly with consumers.
They'll end up selling us the same product over and over and it will end up devolve into a license where in the end you'll own nothing.
Perhaps I grow far too cynical as I get older. But in my experiences business's will take what advantage they can, I think consumers and creators have suffered much under the current business model for distributed works. Seems TPM's are just more control given to corporations from not just consumers but creators as well. At the end of the day the relationship is between creator and consumer, we should all be careful how much we damage it.

John said...


You have total ownership control of your physical property. When you buy a DVD, you can do whatever you like with the plastic itself. That's your physical property.

What you don't have control over, and I'm afraid you never did in a standard content purchase, is the work on the plastic.

You bought plastic with some licensed content attached. When you buy a paper book, you have bought paper, glue and cover stock with licensed content attached.

There has never been a time under copyright when license strings have not been attached to your copyright-protected content. New technology just shows the strings in greater contrast.

If you want more control of the content you buy, you will have to purchase new license terms. That's the negotiation going on right now.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for some excellent commentary, and for your reasoned defence of the basic idea of copyright. As a creator (and copious consumer!) of music myself, I am totally in favour of reversing this trend of people thinking that music is "free" or "belongs to everyone." The only way to do it is to continue to poke holes in the arguments as you have done – clearly, rigourously and without recourse to namecalling or hyperbole.

Most of the discussion seems to be centred around the C-32 bill, which, while deeply flawed, is a step in the right direction in many ways. My main objection to it is that it seems to be shaped more by music publishers and distributors than by creators. It doesn't seem to want to put any extra money into the pockets of the artists, only those of the labels.

I also do not think that criminalising something that sidesteps copy protection is right, or even that it will stand up to appeal. Sidestepping copy protection is not the criminal act; it is dumping an un-protected copy on the internet for strangers that is the crime. No doubt we will soon have international agreement on how to indict and close down pirates. This, not DRM, nor CD levies, is the answer.

As one of Maia's former teachers, I am proud and happy that she has such a clear idea of the business she is in, and that she is so plainly on her way to success. If a couple of "fans" boo her for her views, I'm sure she will take it entirely in stride.

Christopher Smith

Sara H said...

It’s becoming clear that as people have options for legal downloading of music, film, and video games, they will take those options over visiting a pirate download site. Shut down the pirate sites, and that should make more money available to put into developing more legal options for downloading and distribution.

The strongest part of Bill C-32 will shut down the pirate sites and put them out of business so artists can stay in – or get in – the music business. Given a choice, I think Canadians will support artists over the pirates.

Fred said...

Maia is making the point that artists should be in a position to earn their livings from making music to the extent that people want to listen to it. People who want to listen to the Ladies of the Canyon’s music don’t have a right to hear it, download it, or copy it without paying. And the pirate download sites don’t have a right to profit from their work by illegally offering it at no charge to downloaders while getting ad revenue from their sites based on attracting people who want to download. Why does “Gruesome” think that’s okay?

Maple Syrup said...

Is Canada’s music recording market affected by illegal download sites? Absolutely! The Canadian market for recording is down about 50% since the rise of file-sharing and pirate download sites. Just ask a musician trying to break into the business, or an established artist. They’ll tell you it’s harder and harder to making a living from making music – even when they have 3 or 4 bands – as many do!

Gruesome said...

Licensing terms don't over rule law and copyright. Private copying for personal use has been expressly permitted by statute since 1999.
If a license could take away my rights under copyright, you could license a book so that it could not be resold.
TPM's would Alter copyright to be heavily weighted against the consumer and some have even argued against the creator.

Gruesome said...

For the record I'm for shutting down down any websites that encourage piracy. I would probably be working to have this bill passed instead of against it if not for the reduced fair use. I'd even be for some of the changes I've seen that would support artists further.
I believe this bill will not pass. And because of this clinging to digital locks which don't work you won't even get the stuff that's really needed.

jedgar said...

The fact is, weak copyright protection actually moves Canada toward fewer and fewer players(think Spotify, Amazon...) in our market. In other words, as revenues from music recording sales shrink – and they have – only the strong and the big will survive. The Indies will feel the pressure the most from weak copyright, and the Indies will benefit the most from stronger copyright that increases revenues from recording sales. If you want to move Canada further away from a monopoly situation, give the Indies and emerging artists stronger copyright protection now.

Amy said...

It's about time Canada caught up with the rest of the industrialized world to create a legislative environment that encourages innovation and artistic creation. All you have to do is look at other countries to see that when modern copyright laws are in place, more music and art is created for all of us to enjoy. When those laws aren't in place, less talent sees the light of day - Spain is a great example.
As the U.S. has strengthened copyright and increased the penalties for the pirate sites, the pirates have moved from U.S. servers to Canadian ones. Apparently stronger copyright and enforcement – criminalizing the pirate sites – can close down the pirate sites. It's time Canada stopped being a shelter for them.
It's time to drive the pirate sites from Canadian servers - and make sure that we have a country where artists like Maia are encouraged to create music.

Victoria said...

Stronger copyright protection in Europe and the U.S. – including for TPMs – now give European and American consumers a greater range of choice. For example, there are many more legal download sites accessible in Europe and the U.S. than in Canada. The pirate download sites are suppressing consumer choice.

Anonymous said...

One thing I believe everyone will have to accept - no matter what side of the debate they're on - is that there will be no perfect solution. But we can work hard to arrive at the best possible solution for all concerned.

When I see arguments like "I can't support this bill because of TPMs" or "sink the bill because of the fair use provisions", it seems to me that there are no end of possible reasons to oppose meaningful reforms. It's a defeatist approach that, if pursued, can only arrive at failure.

Let's be clear: the status quo in Canadian copyright rules is a failure to artists like Maia Davies, John Degen and many, many more. It is utterly unfair to them.

Hats off to both for speaking up in a positive, productive way on this issue. Hopefully they can convince some of the naysayers of an increasingly obvious truth - that copyright reform will deliver net benefits to all stakeholders.

Steve Creator_Consumer said...

Regardless whether it is the “old economy” or “new economy,” people still need to pay the rent and put food on the table. One or two of you seem to think a new business model for music means that artists shouldn’t be paid for their music. What parallel universe do you live in? You sure don’t live in the same reality that artists do!

Sacha said...

I read Maia's op-ed and was impressed that she openly conveyed what so many artists in this country are feeling. The theft of music is inexcusable, and cannot be justified on a moral or legal basis. Theft is theft, regardless of how easy digitization has made it. It is destroying the livelihoods of artists and other stakeholders in the music industry and stronger laws are needed to protect our music creators.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post by Maia Davies. It goes to show first hand how musicians are impacted by piracy. To those saying that C-32 will reduce fair use - it will do the opposite. There is currently no provision for parody, or the "youtube" provision. C-32 will allow for this. To those worried about digital locks, allow the free market to determine what happens with those. If they are as unloved and unsupported as you say they are they will simply fall by the wayside, as they have with CDs.

Again - good for Maia to speak out about this issue that is so close to her.

Gruesome said...

Ok, so lets gut fair use altogether which is what we're essentially talking about here and declare war on the people who actually pay for creative content.
While pirates merrily go on their way.
You can't see the forest for the trees.
Is this what Canada has come to now. Having even more extremist copyright laws than even that of the US. Is Canada now to sell it's soul to corporate interests. At Least U.S. law contains a flexible fair use provision covering recording television shows to backup copies. The Canadian laws contain a series of new fair dealing exceptions that are far more restrictive than the U.S. fair use and are still subject to digital locks.
Part of me wants to see the end of this where all consumer rights to fair use are eliminated and then we can see how the artist will fair in Canada.
You are talking about implementing law that only effects consumers, pirates know how to deal with digital locks.
So your choice is to tell the consumer your only right left is not to pay, consumers we have removed you rights in copyright, if you don't like it don't buy our sure you want to put consumers in that corner?