‘Dysfunctional’ Copyright Board needs reform, Senate committee finds


The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce

‘Dysfunctional’ Copyright Board needs reform, Senate committee finds

December 1, 2016

Ottawa – Dysfunction at the Copyright Board of Canada and its outdated procedures are creating lengthy delays in the setting of tariffs for copyrighted works and generating uncertainty for their creators and businesses that may wish to use that work in their new products or services.

In its report titled Copyright Board: A rationale for urgent review, the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce is calling for a thorough, in-depth examination of the Copyright Board’s mandate, practices and resources to be conducted next year.

The Copyright Board is the federal regulator that sets the tariffs, or fees, that businesses pay to artists for the use of their copyrighted work when the collection of tariffs has been assigned to a collective society, such as the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.

Senators say it’s time to get to the bottom of the board’s long delays in setting tariffs. These delays could also impact Canadian businesses that are willing to pay royalties to use Canadian cultural products in new or innovative ways, but can’t figure out how much it’s ultimately going to cost them.

The backlog of tariffs filed with the Board has been pending for an estimated average length of time of seven years, University of Ottawa Professor Jeremy de Beer told the committee last month.

The committee recommends that the review of the Copyright Board should be done as part of the statutory five-year review of the Copyright Act, scheduled for 2017. The review should be performed by a committee of the Senate, the House of Commons or both.

Quick Facts

  • The Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce heard from 15 witnesses over two days in November; all witnesses agreed there are problems with the Copyright Board that need fixing.
  • Royalties set by the board’s decisions are estimated to exceed $400 million annually.
  • More than 35 collective societies exist today to help artists collect royalty payments. In the 1980s, there were five.


“When committee members hear a host of witnesses repeat the same concern about the Copyright Board, it’s a strong signal that something is wrong with the board’s internal operations or practices. This situation can no longer be tolerated.”

- Senator David Tkachuk, Chair of the committee

“Long delays in setting tariffs jeopardize the vibrancy of Canada’s cultural sector and related businesses. A thorough review of the Copyright Board of Canada is needed to determine the cause of these long delays. The Board’s operations should, therefore, be included in the statutory five-year review of the Copyright Act in 2017.”

- Senator Joseph A. Day, Deputy Chair of the committee

“We have a special role to investigate issues of national concern and to bring independent research to bear. We’re trying to draw attention to a lingering problem that affects two important sectors of the Canadian economy and society – its rich and vibrant cultural sector and its vital business world.”

- Senator Douglas Black, Member of the committee

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For more information, please contact:

Marcy Galipeau
Chief, Outreach and Committees (Communications)
Senate of Canada
(613) 415-6154