Canadian Copyright Bill Unlikely In This Government?

Russell McOrmond yesterday notice paper, but there appears to be no sign of a copyright bill today. With the latest political shake-up in Canada, it could cause the Jim Prentice copyright reform bill to never see the light of day.

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

There is no shortage of speculation on what the copyright reform bill would look like. Many suggest that with the throne speech as well as the Member of Parliament echoing the major foreign copyright stakeholder, it is likely that the worst fears of a Canadian Digital Millennium Copyright Act would be realized sooner or later.

Everyone has been waiting for a copyright reform bill, or a debate, or even a hint as to what is officially going to happen with the copyright issue. Even with the government promising in the last election that they would put international treaties into the House of Commons for debate before ratification, neither debate nor consultation nor a bill has even materialized.

Now with the current political climate, it seems that the chances that the copyright reform bill even seeing the light of day is growing slimmer by the day. The government is currently threatening to dissolve the parliament on a number of issues. One of the issues is the anti-crime bill being stalled in the senate. Another issue is the budget bill – a bill notorious for causing elections in minority government situations. The budget was something that one opposition political party saying that they would vote against it in the past. Added to this is the future of the Afghanistan mission – something that has caused deep political lines already. If it weren’t enough, there have been reports that the Conservative government is contemplating on simply tabling a bill of confidence which, like the other cases, could topple the government into an election. Is it all a game or is the government seriously going to be toppled within the next few weeks? If there is anything certain in this, it’s that the longevity of the current government has been unpredictable at best – which could possibly mean that the copyright bill that was to be tabled several times to not see the light of day.

The copyright bill is a sensitive issue among Canadians who are involved in technology in some form or another – let alone those who are involved in the arts. The grassroots movement of the Facebook group ‘Fair Copyright for Canada’ certainly gained momentum – unexpected momentum for some. With protesters seeking answers on the burning questions on everyones minds with the issue of copyright, the possible tabling of the copyright bill before the end of 2007 was simply put off for a later date. In other words, evidence points to the very likely possibility that the debate pressured the government to take the bill off the table before it was even on the table in the first place. Judging by the reaction, it would seem reasonable to speculate that the government knows that copyright is a rather touchy subject that could prevent votes in a potential election in the future.

With big issues causing election rumbles, whether Canadians are ready for one or not, it is quite likely that the tabling of the bill won’t occur for some time for fear of lost votes – particularly with other issues threatening to cause an election shortly. One thing is for sure, if speculation is right on the contents of the bill, it won’t earn the governing party very many votes anyway. So what are the odds that the Prentice Copyright reform bill will ever see the light of day? Unless the government survives the latest hurdles, it is very doubtful that a copyright reform bill will ever see the light of day.

Where would that leave Canadians on a frosty March or warming April? Heading to the polls with copyright related issues being of hardly any concern with the current political issues more front and center. With the last minority government and this minority government, under the potential circumstance, not passing any copyright reform bill, it may be easier to pass a kidney stone then a copyright reform bill. Even then, that raises the possibility of what is in store for the next government. Would the next one be a majority government or a minority one? There is little doubting that minority governments have stalled the copyright reform bill for this many years. With both Conservative and Liberal party at least showing signs of simply trying to enact restrictive copyright laws, perhaps the best thing Canadians could hope for is another minority government who is willing to set up a public consultation on the matter so as to at least clear the dust in the matter once and for all.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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