U.S./Canada Crossing Developments

by SaskMusic

August 4, 2009 in Touring

(Ed - When Canadian artists want to work in the U.S., they must apply for a work visa known as a P2, and pay a processing fee to the U.S. government - INS. The AFM can obtain this paperwork for its members.

When U.S. musicians want to work in Canada, they must also apply for a work visa, and pay a processing fee to the Canadian government. However, recent changes mean that Canadian artists must apply for their U.S. work visas - P2s - a minimum of 90 days in advance, or else face a "premium processing" fee of $1000 US. This may translate to lost gigs for some artists entering the US as it's often impossible to contract gigs that far in advance.)

Early this year we found out that Canadian Immigration and Citizenship was about to implement policy changes that would have made the "playing field" unfairly balanced in favour of foreign artists: specifically, by waiving all work permit fees/HRDC employment validation for foreign artists wishing to perform in Canada. CIC used the argument that a symphony orchestra can come into Canada without validation/fees, while a string quartet playing the same venue had to get validation. (Ed - This is confusing, but does not justify throwing out all work fees arbitrarily.)

A very serious letter writing campaign to the CIC was spearheaded by AFM Vice President for Canada, David Jandrisch. On March 21 the Regina Musicians' Association received news these proposed changes had been withdrawn. Senator Tommy Banks, well known musician, composer, arranger and producer played a key role in the process as well, in making sure that the letters got to the right people in government. (Senator Banks is continuing his work to make sure the status quo is adhered to, and is looking further into the new $1000 US "expediting fee" that INS can charge for a P2 visa.)

AFM President Tom Lee is meeting with the Director of the INS Service Centre in Vermont in an effort to make it a more equitable situation for Canadian musicians going into the U.S. This is not the first time that the AFM has taken action to correct inequities for musicians attempting to work in the States. It has worked before and I am sure that this recent victory with CIC is just the first step in getting a better deal for musicians again.

One thing we should keep in mind is that the people who wanted the change to Immigration rules - "the purchasers" - aren't going to stop fighting about this, so we had all better be ready to do whatever is necessary to protect the jobs that Canadian musicians have in Canada - jobs in clubs and bars that American musicians would gladly undercut to get in on. Most people would agree that competition is OK as long as both sides have the same chance to win.

The Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel Reaches Decision in U.S.

(Ed: While this decision applies to the U.S./U.S. artists only, it may have some bearing on future Canadian developments. As well, Canadian holders of copyright in the US (according to US copyright law) may join SoundExchange.)

Musicians in the World...American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) hail the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (CARP) decision setting the payment terms that will govern webcasters when they use music on radio-style Internet programs.

Tom Lee, International President of the AFM says, "The statute requires recording musicians and vocalists to receive 50% of the royalty fees. We are disappointed that the rate set by the Arbitrators is substantially below the rate we requested, and we believe that the evidence presented in the CARP proceeding amply supported a higher royalty rate. But we are delighted that artists finally will be compensated when their work is exploited on the Internet." The unions especially welcome the CARP's adoption of a payment term requiring the artists' share of royalties to be paid to them directly.

"Fighting for direct payment to artists has been a top AFTRA priority," said John Connolly, AFTRA National President. The unions also praise the CARP decision to designate SoundExchange as the collective agent for unaffiliated copyright owners. The report acknowledged AFM's and AFTRA's expressed preference for SoundExchange due to the collective's non-profit status and experience with similar royalties as well as the role of artists in SoundExchange governance. Contrary to the unions' view, the webcasters and broadcasters had requested the CARP to designate a for-profit collective in which artists have no control as the collective for unaffiliated copyright owners.

Last November, the AFM, AFTRA, the major record labels, and artists' groups including the Recording Artists Coalition, the Music Manager's Forum and the Recording Academy announced a reorganization of SoundExchange that placed it under the equal control of artist and copyright owner representatives, and committed it to direct payment of artists as a condition of a copyright owner's membership in the collective.

The AFM represents 130,000 professional musicians throughout the United States and Canada, including featured and non-featured recording musicians. AFTRA represents more than 80,000 performers in the United States, including featured and non-featured recording vocalists.

By Brian Dojack for SaskMusic. Originally published April/May 2002.

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