The last time Canadians were consulted on copyright related issues was clear back in July of 2001. Back then, by todays standards, file-sharing was still establishing itself, iTunes was two years away from opening, the iPod was three months away from being released for the first time and DRM was practically unheard of in the public sphere. It’s not hard to conclude that this copyright consultation, both online and offline, will be different in many ways this time around.
Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes
Ever since C-60 was tabled under the Liberal government in 2007, there have been countless calls for a consultation on copyright related issues. Such a thing would not be realized even while the later Conservative C-61 copyright bill was tabled. Now, it seems that things have finally changed and Canadians will be consulted on the matters.
“Over the coming weeks,” the governments online consultation says, “the Government of Canada will be hosting a nationwide consultation on copyright modernization.”
Michael Geist notes that there will be two town hall meetings for Canadians to let their voices be heard, on in Montreal, the other in Toronto. According to the calender, there will also be 4 invitation only round tables, one of which has already happened.
Canadians who are unable to make their voices heard at the two town hall meetings have an opportunity to submit their comments online.
While average Canadians are going to finally get their voices heard, the copyright industry has been lobbying, often making copyright the most lobbied topic in the government, continually for years. Culture Minister critic Charlie Angus in 2007 commented, “during one of the first meetings I had on copyright a lobbyist informed me that the Internet was little more than a “highway of stolen goods and child pornography that goes into the bedroom of every kid in this country.” ”
He added the following:
The industry message to Parliament was that Canada had become a bandit’s bazaar where hapless artists were regularly mugged for their wares. Politicians were being called upon to act as rush in with restrictive laws to help starving artists by implementing an agenda being put forth by large corporate interests.
This spin of urgency and fear was very successful in laying down the initial political discussion about copyright. Former Heritage Minister HÃ©lÃ©ne Chalifour Scherrer provided this perspective on digital culture: “There is no doubt we must modernize the copyright act as soon as possible. The emergence of the Internet and digital technology has shaken entire sectors of our society. I am thinking in particular of the protection of the intellectual property of our creative people.”
Listening to her you’d think that the digital revolution was like a carload of gangbangers that had taken over our quaint Canadian cultural neighbourhood.
The consultation also posted a huge, seemingly exhaustive list of issues facing Canada related to copyright with select sources on each topic.
The consultation runs until September 13th and asks Canadians the following critical questions:
1.How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you? How should existing laws be modernized?
2.Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time
3.What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?
4.What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?
5. What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?
Many who are involved in Canadian copyright are hailing this as an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.