The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Decima Reports. Canadian Heritage minister Sheila Copps may bristle at being called baby, but it’s unlikely she’ll object much to the characterization made of her by Mike Bullard at the Junos as the "chick with the cheques". Copps is currying favour with the entertainment industry and favour is usually bought with cash. One has to wonder, though, whether that money will be enough to prop up the current business model for music, threatened as it is by digital distribution. The Junos, which were the best ever (as one might expect hosted in the country’s most beautiful, friendly and musical province), are the public face of one way of promoting Canadian music, but the legal hoops through which recording industry companies are jumping to protect their businesses are fast becoming ridiculous. It was fitting that the show was hosted by the Barenaked Ladies, one of the most intelligent bands in the business. Even when their five-track indie "yellow" cassette was making the rounds of university campuses just over 10 years ago, with its politically incorrect send-up of Fight the Power, Canadian listeners knew the band would likely never fit the mould of Canada’s star system. On the eve of this year’s Junos broadcast, lead singer Steve Page was undermining the system in an eloquent Globe and Mail column urging listeners to tune into Internet radio outside the control of the Clear Channel chain of radio stations which, he claims, strike disadvantageous concert deals with recording artists in return for much-needed airplay. The column set the stage for the show itself in which most, if not close to all, of the nominees and winners rely on touring to make their living. Of course, only a handful of the deserving bands are mentioned at all, and the large mass of Canadian bands with any following at all make little or no money from CD sales. This week, the staff of Canadian NEW MEDIA and affiliate publication Network Letter made a road trip from Ottawa to nearby Kingston ON to hear an up-and-coming band called Luther Wright and the Wrongs. The bluegrass band has been working small rooms across the country for several years. Its music has little commercial appeal and fans rely on the band’s web site to keep track of play dates. The band’s only album, a remake of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, will be lucky to be elevated above novelty status – unlike Dolly Parton’s expected remake of Stairway to Heaven, which will likely become a must-have item on the power of her star draw. Also this week, I wrote a profile for my local community newspaper on Ras Lee, a noted reggae Canadian artist who recently won a Canadian Reggae Music Award for his song Who Killed the Lion? and who has opened a recording studio and practice space a few blocks from my home. Lee, who is better known within the tight-knit reggae community than Luther Wright and the Wrongs are within the more dispersed bluegrass audience, is also dependent on touring for a living. He makes regular tours of Canada, Europe, and home to Jamaica to play and collaborate. Canadian artists don’t need to sell CDs to earn a living and recording industry claims that MP3-sharing hurts Canadian musicians border on hysteria. It is true that MP3-sharing has the potential to harm the star system. Expensively produced concerts, heavy rotation airplay, and slick videos are costly to effect, and predicated on high volume album sales – the proceeds from which fatten industry coffers but do little to raise the awareness of the majority of the country’s artists among Canadians. A music industry without a system to heavily promote a handful of artists a year who can bring in top album dollars can be tough to imagine, but it would in no way represent any reduction in the volume of music actually recorded and played. Most artists would never play a 10,000 seat hockey rink, but mass commercial appeal shouldn’t be allowed to be equated with artistic success for the purpose of protecting Canadian music and its heritage. There are serious and legitimate concerns about locking music up with technological protection measures that make it uncertain that work can be enjoyed past when technology becomes obsolete or labels pass away and future generations are unable to find the key to unlock newly arrived works in the public domain. Technological protection measures presume guilt on the part of the user and set a dangerous precedent for upsetting the balance intended in copyright law. Though the recording industry shouldn’t be allowed to use copyright law as a crutch to protect itself from digital distribution, the "chick with the cheques" shouldn’t be afraid that slowing CD sales are the same thing as the end of Canadian artistic and cultural production. Indie labels such as those that publish the self-financed works of Ras Lee or Luther Wright and The Wrongs, or of albums such as BNL’s yellow cassette, will continue to release music that has little broad commercial appeal. The distribution of those works on peer-to-peer networks will serve as advertisements for the bands, driving fans to pubs and clubs where Canadian heritage will reclaim its lost resonance with its fans. Minister Copps’ handouts will continue to be welcomed by bands and labels that need a hand up from complete obscurity, and those artists will be more than happy to bring the minister up on stage to share their spotlight when it comes time to recognize the music with awards. Canadians, in turn, will continue to have a broad range of music from which to choose, without living under the yoke of draconian copyright laws that are unfair and far removed from the principles of helping artists earn a living while ensuring a vibrant commons of song and music to enrich our lives.