In Canada the recording industry has allegedly been witholding payments to musicians for use of copyrighted material and is the subject of a class action (BakerSOC ) that could cost them up to $6Bn.
The problem goes back decades and appears to be the result of a longstanding practice of the recording industry in Canada, described in the lawsuit as “exploit now, pay later if at all.”
It involves the use of works that are often included in compilation CDs (ie. the top dance tracks of 2009) or live recordings. The record labels create, press, distribute, and sell the CDs, but do not obtain the necessary copyright licences.
The defendants in the case are Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada, the four primary members of the Canadian Recording Industry Association.
The CRIA members were hit with the lawsuit in October 2008, after artists decided to turn to the courts following decades of frustration with the rampant infringement.
It would be interesting to see if the same practice was going on in the UK. If it was it would make a mockery of the attempts of the Music Industry here to drive through the Digital Economy Bill which seeks to cut off the internet connections of people involved in copyright infringement (or “illegal music downloading”).
There’s a lot more detail on the Canadian case in Michael Geist’s blog here.