Canada Gets More Copyright Consultations

Was it something Michael Geist or a Canadian MP said or have the concerns over Copyright started spilling into more action within Canada?

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

Whatever started this, though likely for many reasons instead of one, it seems that discussion over copyright and how to change laws for the better has seen substantial growth in the last few weeks – a growth not seen since Michael Geist’s Facebook group.

Many may point to Michael Geist’s well-known Copyright Myths presentation that made its debut in the Public Policy Forum symposium on copyright. One of the points Geist made during his panel speech was that there has been limited consultation and substantial action. He notes the last consultation that occurred in 2001 and, in contrast, notes the actions of the government through ‘phase one’ with respect to new rights in 1987, rental rights in 1992, private copying and statutory damages in 2002, and last year’s anti-camcording law. The talk was posted shortly afterwards for all to watch and listen.

While likely highly motivating and inspiring for many, it could easily be said that the movement towards more debates like this was sparked by James Rajotte, a Conservative Member of the Alberta Parliament and Chair of the Standing Committee of Industry suggesting that the copyright bill may be weeks away. As noted by Russell McOrmond, the copyright reform bill has been on the order paper for some time now – meaning it could be tabled at any time. It may lead some to wonder if there ever will be copyright reform since it’s been promised numerous times in the Conservative government, but never tabled thus far.

Though likely to be tabled or not, that won’t (and shouldn’t) slow the debates any whenever the government makes documented moves outside of the order-paper to say that Copyright Reform is to be tabled soon. This has been a consistent thing in the copyright reform process – when the Liberal government tabled Bill C-60 which ultimately died in November of 2005, the move was quickly followed up by Russell McOrmond’s Bill C-60 petition, then there was the formation of Online Rights Canada the following month in December (it was started as a joint project between CIPPIC and the EFF), then there was the formation of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition part way through into 2006. This, of course, is by far not a complete list (in fact, it is a very small sample), but it is a few of the notable movements that seems to have appeared following the copyright reform bill back in 2005.

Fast-forward to 2007, when the current Conservative governing party nearly tabled copyright reform, Michael Geists Facebook group quickly grew and sparked online and offline protests. The governing party panicked and pulled the legislation before it was tabled. During all of this was formation of the Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright. Again, a small, but significant, sample of movements.

Now more recently, a chair-person comments that copyright reform is going to be tabled before the break during the Public Policy Forum Copyright symposium. This happened during a time when the Canadian Federation of Students renewed calls for fair copyright. Two very different consultation processes spring up. The first is offline and has numerous corporate people along with Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) to name a few in a subsequent consultation some are saying is going to be unbalanced debate. The second occurrence, again, being followed by Michael Geist, is calm copyright which is online and can very easily feature consumers and people who feel that copyright reform should respect all stakeholders involved.

The interesting thing about Calm Copyright (asside from the debates themselves) is their about page which states the following:

Copyright is an important subject in Canada right now. Despite appearances, there are dozens of stakeholders trying to be heard in the heated debate happening across the country. In the melee, subtleties are lost, and many groups that might otherwise be in agreement are pitted against each other over issues that they consider peripheral to their core values.

On this site, we are going to try to decipher everyone’s true positions on copyright, and see how close we are to a consensus. There may be some issues that we’ll never conquer, but with any luck, we’ll know exactly WHY they’re insurmountable.

The key to this process is civility. Take a deep breath, organize your thoughts, and engage in a conversation, not a shouting match. If we get all worked up, we see nothing but catastrophe. We need to stay calm and figure it out.

It may be a concept that should be employed more often in these crucial debates, inviting everyone to the table. It certainly is a welcoming change considering there has been a number of instances in the past during copyright debates of private meetings, backroom deals, closed door talks as seen in the SPP in Canada, street rallies, fund-raisers (AKA copyright “celebrations”), on-the-spot intense questionings, and name-calling to name a few things that have happened in the last three years of the copyright reform process.

Certainly an important aspect in all of this is the fact that whenever copyright reform is suggested to be tabled, Canadians on both sides of the table are, at least, ready. One can hope the pressure keeps up even if copyright reform isn’t tabled because how can everyone win when only one side is present and represented at the table?

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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