Canadian DMCA Doomed if Government Follows Through and Triggers Election

The Prime Minister of Canada is reportedly hinting at calling an election. If an election is called, history could repeat itself and have the Canadian DMCA die on the order-paper a second time.

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

It may seem like just run of the mill political news in Canada, but the consequences are far reaching – affecting the fate of Bill C-61, the bill dubbed by many as the Canadian DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). The news most likely comes to the relief of many who have been affected by the creativity and technology industries, but the news will no doubt infuriate the foreign copyright industry who have been lobbying for years to get Canada to implement draconian copyright legislation.

CBC reported that Stephan Harper, Canada’s current prime minister, hinted at triggering an election during a speech in Cupids, Newfoundland. From the report:

“Quite frankly, I’m going to have to make a judgment in the next little while as to whether or not this Parliament can function productively,” Harper said, without elaborating on his plans.

He said legislation is being stalled in the Liberal-dominated Senate and obstructed in the House of Commons “principally by Mr. Dion.”

“Two of the three opposition parties don’t support the government and say we should be defeated. Mr. Dion says he doesn’t support the government but won’t say, you know, whether he will defeat us or not,” Harper said.

“I don’t think that’s a tenable situation.”

While saying they will do something and actually doing it are two entirely different things, it’s also particularly notable that the copyright reform bill is also a long way off from becoming law still. Bill C-61 has quite a history of things that delayed it. The last instance being a high profile resignation which proved to be a PR nightmare for the governing party. Prior to that, it was the sudden support build-up of Fair Copyright for Canada, a Facebook group devoted to getting a balanced approach to copyright.

The last couple of years, it seemed like the Conservative party (current governing party) have been the party that has been promoting copyright reform which has, by general consensus of Canadian artists, business and consumers not attached to the hip by foreign copyright lobbyists, been overall an omnibus of bad ideas. It may be easy to think that the Liberal party (the previous governing party) would have a good chance at promoting fair copyright laws. Unfortunately, in order to do that, one woudl have to ignore what happened in 2005 and 2006 where Sam Bulte promoted an even earlier Canadian DMCA known as Bill C-60.

If there’s anything that both bills had in common, it was the potentially damaging restrictions they would have in Canada. Bill C-60 was known to have a devastating effect on the education community at large (lesson material would have to be destroyed after a certain period of time, etc.) among other things. Ironically, one can thank the Conservative party for that point of view. Bill C-61 on the other hand has a hot button debate over DRM overriding Fair Dealings (Canada’s version of Fair Use as it’s known in the US) in pretty much just about any way. There’s, of course, the issue of the anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement which would allow border agents to seize any device that could potentially carry copyright infringing material without even reasonable suspicion. As we reported earlier this year, it is almost as if Bill C-61 was designed for ACTA, taking heat off the Conservative party.

For Canadians concerned about copyright and hoping to vote for one of the two most popular parties, it presents quite a dilemma. Vote Conservative and vote for a Canadian DMCA. Vote Liberal and vote for a Canadian DMCA. The losing party will be more than happy to be critical about copyright reform. Whoever wins will likely (if history is anything to go by) get to be the party that will be widely seen as selling the country out to foreign lobbyists as they table new draconian copyright legislation – namely the American copyright industry.

While the situation seems dire, it’s also different from the situation in the United States. In Canada, there’s more than two political parties. The French separatist party known as the Bloc finally made their copyright position known during this session of parliament. As we reported the Bloc leader thought Bill C-61 didn’t go far enough in terms of restrictiveness. Meanwhile, the last party in the government currently is the NDP which has consistently taken the stance that the copyright legislation didn’t keep consumers in mind. Some have suggested that the NDP is becoming known as Canada’s Pirate Party in spite of the fact that there is officially discussion of discussions to start a Pirate Party in Canada. The Green Party of Canada has also been highlighted in the Canadian media from time to time. They have been widely seen as the party that has the best chance at getting into parliament, but currently don’t have any seats. They have been known to disagree with where copyright legislation has gone in the past and present.

It seems that history is repeating itself in the copyright debate. If one were to look at the copyright debates from a historical perspective, it isn’t hard to see that another minority government will occur with legislation put forth that most Canadians disagree with, yet supported by a very small minority with a lot of money and debate over the issues continue to grow. It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t just about the issue of downloading unauthorized files on P2P, but encompasses a wider issue of fair dealings and consumer access to content and what can be created, quoted, cited, programmed, manufactured, etc. Suggesting that copyright legislation only affects file-sharers downloading the latest top 40 music is a far too narrow of a perspective on copyright legislation even though it will affect the legality of file-sharing. In any event, it looks like the second Canadian DMCA’s days are increasingly looking like they are numbered.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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