Bill C-60 and Bill C-74 Die

There has been a number of debates surrounding Bill C-60. Among the technology savvy, it has been a controversial issue, but for the average consumer, most do not even know what “C-60” even is.

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

Since the big media companies have been actively campaigning for its passage, civil rights lobbyists have been doing everything they can to counter the movement. Yesterday, Conservatives tabled a non-confidence motion that passed, effectively toppling the government. Now the question is, where will these things go from here?

To examine this issue and discuss what it means for the P2P community, Slyck spoke with David Fewer and Phillipa Lawson, legal council and Executive Director/General Counsel of the CIPPIC (Canadian Interest Policy and Public Interest Clinic.)

Since the government voted non-confidence, Paul Martin needs to call an election which disrupts the order of business. Having said that, Bill C-60, the infamous copyright reform bill has yet to make it to the second reading. There is also talk of Bill C-74, which is the Canadian surveillance bill, which seems to have gained less attention in the media. What will happen to these bills?

David Fewer:C-60 and C-74 are now history. Both bills have been scrapped. That said, the issues both bills addressed have not gone away. Regardless of the identity of the government elected January 23, we will see more copyright and lawful access legislation. Hopefully, the next government will address the warts of both laws while retaining their sounder elements.

Say the government didn’t fall and Bill C-74 became law. What was C-74 about and how concerned should Canadians be? Also, what are the benefits and do the pro’s outweigh the cons?

Phillipa Lawson: Bill C-74, the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act, would force communications providers to build surveillance back-doors into the hardware that routes our phone calls, Internet traffic, and more. At the same time as increasing surveillance capacity, it would allow law enforcement agencies to obtain certain identifying information about internet and phone subscribers (name, address, telephone number, email address, IP address) without a warrant.

Canadians should be concerned because this would increase state surveillance capacity while removing a legal safeguard designed to protect us from unjustified surveillance. See our news release under “CIPPIC News” at the CIPPIC website.

The benefits include greater capacity of law enforcement to identify and pursue criminals, while the cons include greater opportunity for law enforcement abuse of their powers (e.g., investigating innocent people).

Will we see a return to the copyright reform bill? If so, will it likely be worse or better then before?

David Fewer: On the copyright front, C-60 came under a great deal of pressure from lobbyists representing big media and foreign interests, particularly on the issue of implementation of Canada’s obligations under the 1995 WIPO Treaties. We thought that C-60 did a pretty good job of protecting innovation interests. We hope and expect that the next government will continue to resist these pressures and table new legislation that is similarly protective of Canada’s innovation interests.

When the campaign trail begins, clearly there will be more significant issues. How do concerned Canadians make this issue more of a public debate?

David Fewer: The single best way to generate public debate over these important issues is to make your concerns known to the candidates in your riding. Attend public debates and events and ask the tough questions! Our politicians need to know these issues, and we need to know their views on those issues.

Where are the two political parties aligned when it comes to consumer rights and business interests?

David Fewer: Consumer rights has not been a big issue for any of the four national parties in recent times – one need only look so far as the fiasco of the Do Not Call legislation the Liberals sped through Parliament last week. What began as a pretty decent consumer protection bill was watered down liberally after the government finished addressing the concerns of commercial interests. Critics call it the “Do Not (Hesitate to) Call Law”.

If we do see the bills return in some form or other, how long would it take to make it’s way back into legislation?

David Fewer: No way to know. Could be the first item up for deliberation, could be way down the road. We do know that copyright revision is now a permanent fixture of Ottawa’s policy scene. As long as Big Media has money to spend on lobbyists, something will be cooking. Similarly, the government has been consulting on lawful access issues over two administrations. We’ll see a new bill soon.

On issues surrounding the internet as a whole, what could we expect to see in the future?

David Fewer: In many ways, 2005 has been a remarkable year for Canadian technology policy. We had copyright bills, a lawful access bill, the appeal in BMG v. Doe, the SPAM Task Force, the Sony DRM rootkit debacle, and other issues besides. 2006, incredibly, promises the same and more. We will see more copyright, more lawful access, review of Canada’s federal privacy laws, likely a government response to the SPAM Task Force, possibly a government response to the phenomenon of spyware, a Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Robertson v. Thomson appeal, and, always skulking in the background, CRIA and the MPAA potentially filing a new round of lawsuits targeting their customers – ordinary Canadians downloading content.

Slyck would like to thank David Fewer and Phillipa Lawson for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions. You can research different Internet issues in Canada on the CIPPIC home page.

As was pointed out, this election could be a bare fist election and experts say that the end outcome may be another minority government which could mean a slow progress for any new copyright reform bills that could spring up in the future. So how is the CRIA responding? According to their website, it seems that Bill C-60 has been conveniently whisked away as there is no mention that the bill was scrapped. In the mean time, they are keeping up with their drum on saying that they are cracking down on “illegal downloading” in “five new countries.” Maybe pointing elsewhere will help divert attention from the issue that should have greatly disappointed Graham Henderson, knowing that his bill has been placed in the wastebasket.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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