Canadian Cabinet Shuffle Brings New Faces to Copyright Debate

Last weeks cabinet shuffle means that Canadians concerned about copyright will be seeing new faces at the federal level.

Last week, The Trudeau Liberal government experienced a cabinet shuffle. The results show that if something, anything, happens on the copyright file, Canadian’s will be seeing a new face associated with that file.

One of the changes affects the minister of Canadian Heritage. This position has had a long history of being associated with the copyright debate because it has been responsible for copyright reform so many times. This portfolio is now being held by Pablo Rodriguez. A brief look at the Wikipedia entry shows the following:

Prior to entering politics, Rodriguez, who has a degree in business administration from the University of Sherbrooke, had worked for over twelve years in the fields of public affairs and management of international projects.

Throughout his career, Rodriguez has dedicated much of his time to humanitarian causes. His work particularly focused on helping developing countries and the eradication of poverty. He was the Vice President of Oxfam Qu├ębec from 2000 to 2004.

A government web page doesn’t really offer much else other than his efforts to bring forth issues about climate change. So, it’s quite difficult to get any leanings on the copyright file based on this information.

Another portfolio that can easily affect copyright is the Minister of Industry. In the past, this ministry has had a hand in the copyright debate on numerous occasions. This is one of the portfolio’s that really hasn’t changed as it is still being lead by Navdeep Bains. Currently, the minister in charge is known as the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Navdeep Bains has said in the past that he is a supporter of network neutrality. This runs counter to efforts by lobbying organizations who want to see Canada adopt Internet censorship to benefit their corporate interests. So, at the very least, that’s a positive sign.

Another interesting note is the seemingly new Minister for Digital Government. This is being held by Scott Brison. We did some digging around because we weren’t sure what the full responsibilities were for the ministry. We did come across one page which suggests that the ministry is responsible for improving online government services. Unless something changes with the responsibilities, it doesn’t appear that this will affect the copyright debate.

Currently, there are consultations being held on the copyright file. So, there is movement on these issues, but we are also in the early stages. Of course, one question that could very easily affect things on the copyright debate is when the next election is going to take place. That date is set at October 21, 2019. This is significant because copyright bills have a long history of dying on the order paper. To our knowledge, this has happened at least three times now. In all three cases, those bills would have given the green light for major corporate interests to begin mass litigation of alleged file-sharers.

So, given that history, we know that copyright files tend to move slowly. This is thanks in part due to the fact that if a bad copyright bill is tabled, Canadian’s have protested against them quite passionately. We’ve seen “Pro user zealots” as bumper stickers, mass letter writing campaigns, ministers being swarmed by concerned Canadians during events, anti-fundraisers (think “a balanced meal”), and a whole lot more in the past. So, with copyright consultations only taking place now, it seems more plausible that if there is going to be copyright reform, it’s going to happen after the next election.

As for where copyright consultations are standing right now, Music Canada, which represents major foreign record labels like Sony, Warner, and Universal, is already demanding that the Canadian government implement Internet censorship through copyright legislation. This in spite of the fact that they wound up admitting to the government that legal services are what is causing piracy to “drift away” while answering one of the questions. Where things lead to from there is anyone’s guess, but we do know that there is a lot of lobbying happening right now to get the Canadian government to crack down on the open Internet.

So, really if we get a copyright reform bill before the next election, it would be impressive. A little more than a year is a tight deadline to even table, let alone pass anything. Still, Canadians should be aware that copyright reform is going to happen at some point, even if it isn’t going to happen before the next election. If they want to see something positive early on, now is certainly the time to act.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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