Bill C-59 Fast Tracked to Senate in 80 Minutes

Bill C-59, an act to amend the Canadian criminal code, has been catching new attention.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

While the speed with which it got into the House of Commons is nothing short of impressive, it’s even more impressive how little time it took to await senate approval. The speed at which this copyright matter has traveled throughout the government has some advocates worried.

Bill C-59 in itself didn’t get too much controversy over its contents. Very few are arguing in favour of bringing a camera into a theatre. The controversial aspect falls within the intense lobbying from foreign interests – namely the American movie industry. The shifting piracy rates brought forth and constantly varying certainly didn’t help the credibility of the bill either. If there’s one thing about this bill that has raised alarm bells, it is the lack of time it took to make its debut in the House of Commons. Many are worried that it’s a so-called “thin-wedge” for more controversial bills. Those worries were met with Bill C-453.

Now, new revelations regarding the speed of Bill C-59 have appeared. Michael Geist noted that the bill went through debate, hearings, the first, second and third reading in the matter of 80 minutes. It’s essentially in the blink of a legislative eye. The bill is now in the senate awaiting approval.

While the bill got unanimous support from all parties, the controversies of the bill did not escape the House of Commons. According to the Hansard, Charlie Angus commented, “New Democrats are pleased the piracy bill is before the House. It seems to me that it took a visit from The Terminator and pulling of all Hollywood films out of Canada to get the government to finally move on this, but I am pleased it did move.

“A number of elements need to be examined in the legislation. One is the message it sends and the other is the efficacy of the legislation. […] I do not doubt that there has been piracy with camcorders, but I have questions about the numbers that are thrown around such as 20%, 40%, 70% of all bootlegged products go out of Canada. I do not think that will stand up to serious second scrutiny. […] Consumers do not want to watch something that was shot under a raincoat with a hand-held mic and a camera. They want quality. The quality of many of the bootlegged products out there is very high, which leads some to say that these movies are being cut much closer to source. […] The band width now available on the Internet is almost at the point where people can start to stream movies quickly and efficiently. That will raise serious questions as to how we start to monetize this grey market exchange of intellectual goods on the Internet.

“One model has been put out for us and that is the DMCA, the digital millennium copyright act, which was brought forward by Washington. Washington’s trade representatives will do as much as they can to ensure that Canada signs on with a very similar restrictive copyright regime. However, there are a number of problems with that legislation.

“Just a few months ago, I was in Montreal at an international conference on copyright and Bruce Lehman, who wrote the DMCA, was there. He was one of the key legislative planners who saw the legislation as a way of protecting the intellectual property of the United States. The message he gave in Montreal was that the legislation failed.”

In the process of the fast tracking of the bill, Don Bell, the Liberal MP who tabled Bill C-453, an act that would put in place a motion picture secretariat, was also endorsing his bill.

“I believe that this is a very good step in the right direction and I hope that we will see more steps taken, as I have suggested in my private member’s bill, which is Bill C-453, which would see the creation of a Canadian motion picture industry secretariat. This would be an opportunity for the various sectors of the motion picture industry to come together to advise Parliament on a regular basis on what steps need to be taken legislatively or other means available to the Government of Canada to ensure that we have an internationally competitive film and motion picture industry in Canada, both in terms of domestic films and foreign films,” Bell said.

He further explained, “I should just clarify that domestic films are the kinds of films we produce here in Canada. They are creatively produced in Canada. The kinds of foreign films we talk about, and some people may think they are foreign language films, are actually films, for example, from Hollywood that are produced here. They could be any one of the blockbusters that we have seen. They are produced in motion picture studios across Canada.”

An important thing to note: private members bills in Canada have been known to face a tougher time trying to get passed in the first place. The full debate of this bill can be read in the Hansard.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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