Canada – High Profile Resignation Could Stall Copyright Bill

Late tonight comes reports that Maxime Bernier, now former minister of international affairs and the minister who previously took charge in the copyright reform bill has now resigned.

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

The political fallout may put copyright reform on hold while the governing party swings into further damage control.

Jim Prentice is currently the minister in charge of copyright reform in Canada, but there was a time when Maxime Bernier was minister of industry. He, for some time, took on the roll of the minister who would table copyright reform. There was promise of copyright reform, but a cabinet shuffle and he was moved out of the position, being replaced by Jim Prentice who now is taking on the profile. Before Bernier, Bev Oda was the minister of Canadian culture – like Prentice and Bernier, she was going to table copyright reform.

The news late tonight that the previous minister in charge of copyright reform has shaken the political landscape. Bernier resigned due to leaving government classified documents in an unsecured location. While major media outlets are currently focusing on previous political blunders and the political fallout, the news may affect when copyright reform will be tabled.

As already mentioned, Bev Oda, the once minister of Canadian Heritage said that she would table copyright reform. Unfortunately for some, this suggestion that copyright reform will be tabled by her never came to pass. There was some political issues she had with womens rights activist, but the issues were relatively low profile. Some time after the political issues arose, copyright reform legislation was passed long to then minister of Industry Maxime Bernier. Like the situation with Oda, Bernier never tabled copyright reform despite rumors that it would happen. After a cabinet shuffle where ministers either change rolls, Parliamentarians take up new positions or ministers get shuffled out of their position, Jim Prentice took on the copyright profile.

Late last year, Prentice announced that legislation on copyright would be tabled. News spread quickly and Michael Geist launched his Facebook group, YouTube video where concerned Canadians asked tough questions over the delayed copyright reform like why he isn’t answering CBC’s Search Engine questions and not properly consulting with Canadians on the issue.

The movement most likely stunned more than just the governing party – the Conservative party namely – as some were left wondering when Copyright suddenly became such a hot button topic. That particular moment may have been the moment the Conservatives realized the oven was hot since, to this day, there are still rumors and suggestions circulating that copyright reform is on its way, but still, no bill has actually materialized. It’s likely that the party realized that Copyright reform is, among other things, an issue during a time when damage control is least needed since the events proved that there really are people ready to pound pavement the moment that even a hint of the US’s DMCA attempting to cross the border into Canada from the United States is made public.

If the Conservative party hoped for an opportunity to slip copyright reform into government in the future, it is unlikely that the moment is now. Considering there was a scandal several months ago revolving around a late MP – Chuck Cadman – whose vote would decide the fate of the previous government (it consisted of an alleged bribe of a million dollar) erupted, the Copyright reform bill may have been moved further into the future until things settle down. Shortly after, there was the, as some call it, the NAFTAGate scandal which potentially affected the primaries for the Democratic election in the US. This pushed the governing party into further damage control.

Now, more recently, shortly after a Copyright Symposium that was run by the Public Policy Forum, there was promise that the current session would feature the tabling of copyright reform. Now that the deadline of that suggestion is just weeks away, it may not have been the best time for the current political turmoil to break out. It may lead some to wonder if tabling copyright reform would be a wise move at this point in time now that the dramatic news of the high profile resignation is currently sinking in with Canadians across the country. Can the government risk having more protests over copyright reform on top of the fresh news of the resignation? The way things are going in government right now, copyright reform being tabled by the end of the session is becoming an increasingly bleak proposition given the intense pressure from the United States to enact DMCA-style legislation in Canada. Either way, it’s not a good evening for the party in power.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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