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More information about the CMA’s statement about artists’ fees

We too were disturbed by the comments made by the Canadian Museums Association at the legislative committee last week. We are happy to have received many messages from our members expressing their support for artists’ fees and a desire to improve the situation of artists.

Fortunately, the current version of Bill C-32 does not propose to eliminate the Exhibition Right and such a change is unlikely to be added at this point. It is also unlikely that museums will stop paying fees entirely. It seems clear, however, that the CMA does not feel museums should pay fees for several uses and will likely argue that the education exception – which is in Bill C-32 – gives them to right to use without payment.

The Canadian Museums Association has accused CARFAC of misrepresenting their statement. It is true that we focussed on the aspects that we found troubling and that we thought visual artists needed to know about. Here are some direct quotes from the CMA’s presentation – you may judge for yourself:

The Exhibition Right, which was introduced in 1988, amid much controversy and rejection by the Senate of Canada, today remains a problematic provision in Canada’s Copyright legislation – in fact no other nation has such a provision. Last week it was proposed by a witness that the Public Exhibition Right be expanded by making it retroactive. This would not be a wise move.

Despite having this provision for over 20 years, no other nation has followed our lead. It is costly, cumbersome and has failed to deliver any significant revenue to artists. It has become a roadblock to exhibiting contemporary art or any art that is affected by it. Expanding it would mean taking property rights away from legitimate owners. We recommend that the Exhibition Right be reconsidered and reviewed in the next round of amendments with a view to abolishing it and having it replaced with a compensation program similar to the Public Lending Right.

CARFAC supports the establishment of a compensation program for visual artists, but we do not believe that a voluntary fund can replace the value of the Exhibition Right’s place in law. In 2007 we agreed to establish a joint committee that would advocate for the proposed Exhibition Right Fund.

On the issue of other artists’ fees:

Today Canadians are attending museums in record numbers. They are interested in our heritage and arts and they want to see more of it, not just on our walls, but also on their home screens. These services are in the public interest and there is little to no significant revenue generated from them.

And yet we face infringements for making works available for non commercial purposes even if we own the works themselves. Museums must pay fees to artists to put a work on exhibition, even if the museum owns the painting. This needs to be addressed. We cannot copy or place works of art on our websites without payments. We cannot copy documents or photography for others to use without infringing copyright. We cannot offer public lectures with slides of art without paying a fee nor can we publish a catalogue without also paying other fees. How are we to do our job without breaking the law, especially in an environment where funding for museums and culture at large is uncertain?

When asked what the current bill will mean for museums Mr. Tupper said: “As somebody who runs a museum, if I was to say this is going to be great for me, what will I use it for, it’s having works available for educational purposes on the Internet.” This is likely a reference to the education exception.

We believe these statements are a cause of concern. We have been and will continue to be in touch with the CMA in the coming days to discuss our difference of opinion on the issue of artists’ fees to see if a resolution can be found.

You can find the CMA’s full presentation on their website. You can watch the hearing including questions posed by MPs on ParlVue. The CMA’s presentation starts at 1:17.