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Michael Geist: Secrecy Around $30M Ontario Music Fund Strikes Wrong Notes

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

OMFMichael Geist, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, recently wrote the below article for his website www.michaelgeist.ca and also for the Toronto Star

By Michael Geist

Earlier this month, the British Columbia government unveiled a new $15 million music fund to support the local music industry. The fund matches a similar Ontario initiative that has doled out nearly $30 million over the past two years with a commitment from Premier Kathleen Wynne to make the Ontario Music Fund a permanent program to support the industry.

The millions of taxpayer dollars earmarked for the music industry represents a major success for the industry lobby, which shifted several years ago from focusing on digital copyright reform to identifying new sources of government financial support.

Yet despite the industry accolades, the Ontario program suffers from a surprising lack of transparency with virtually no public information on how the money is actually spent. Moreover, according to documents obtained under provincial access to information laws, the Liberal government has exaggerated the impact of the first round of funding with the creation of relatively few new full-time positions and limited international investment in the province.

The Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), which administers the program on behalf of the government, announced the first round of Ontario Music Fund recipients in September 2014. The big recording company winners were the three major foreign record labels (Sony Music Entertainment Canada, Universal Music Canada, and Warner Music Canada), who averaged more than $830,000 per company. By comparison, the 36 successful Canadian record companies garnered an average of $115,000.

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