The Canadian DMCA and After This Election

There’s a lot of talk in Canadian circles about the up and coming Canadian election and what it could mean for the future of copyright laws in the 21st century.

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

We examine what the past has taught us and what the future may hold.

A lot of corporate driven polls suggest that the election has started out with the question of Conservative majority or Conservative minority governments. Lately, the same polls are now raising the question of Conservative minority or Liberal minority. It stands to reason that this new prospect for those who watch the copyright file should be thrilled at the prospect of a minority government given that it has lately been the only reason why there hasn’t been a Canadian DMCA pushed into law. From the looks of things, it’s highly likely going to be the reason Canadians will be saved from a Canadian DMCA this time around as well as Canada is poised to get an unprecedented third minority government in a row.

Some may wonder, why wouldn’t the Liberal party table something less draconian since they did criticize Bill C-61? This might be brought on by the fact that some people haven’t been around in the copyright debate clear back in around 2004-2005. What happened was, with the only consultation happening in 2001, the Liberal government tabled what is known as Bill C-60. The legislation, see if this sounds familiar, introduced anti-circumvention legislation (section 34.02) as well as the much dreaded law that makes it illegal to “communicate” copyrighted works (section 15).

At the time, it was viewed that the copyright act was overbroad and overreaching – a law that would treat ordinary consumers like criminals because it doesn’t take into account things like format shifting, time shifting, etc. (never mind what it would do to people who end up in legal cross hairs of the copyright industry over p2p networks)

The legislation died on the order paper when the government fell. The uproar the legislation caused had ultimately led to a showdown between the member of parliament that was behind the copyright legislation and Canadians during the election of 2005. The member of parliament was Sam Bulte and there is the ever famous video that many say cost Bulte her seat in that election. The video, interestingly enough, was recently posted on YouTube:

So during the election, Canada, as the campaign phrase of the Conservative party went, voted for change. The Liberal party was pushed into the opposition and the Conservative party took their place as the governing party. After several months past, there were numerous rumours that equally draconian copyright legislation was going to be tabled. There were delays while candidates changed portfolios. The copyright portfolio went from Bev Oda to Maxime Bernier to Jim Prentice. By the time Prentice got a turn with the copyright reform legislation, there was already movement afoot with the Fair Copyrigtht for Canada FacebookFacebook group which exploded to over 90,000 people. Most say that this sudden uprising was the reason why Prentice temporarily pulled the legislation off the table again before re-tabling it.

Right before tabling the legislation, Prentice was swarmed by people who were concerned over the legislation. Much like the Sam Bulte video, Prentice appeared to take one side of the issue. The video, just like the Bulte video, is also posted on YouTube:

The legislation that was ultimately tabled was known as Bill C-61 (some call it Canadian DMCA 2.0) In the legislation was, again, anti-circumvention laws (41.1) as well as enforcing a notice-and-notice regime (section 41.25).

Generally speaking, both of the proposals could have been disasterous for consumers as well as artists since some services that sell MP3s wrap Digital Rights Management in the song (like the Zune for instance) and merely focuses on saying that a small number of organizations that represent foreign international interests are the winners while Canadians are the losers in the copyright debates. It’s difficult to tell the two parties apart when they tabled the Canadian DMCA.

With this in mind, if either the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party get in power, it’s really easy to predict that Canada will be hit with Canadian DMCA 3.0. The fact that the probability that this up and coming government will be a minority government provides the only hope that the legislation won’t be passed.

Confusingly enough, though, the mainstream media has been focusing solely on international polls, not seat count. The more seats won, the more members of parliament there will be. Unlike the United States, there are no ‘winner takes all’ areas – though it is a first past the post system. It’s unclear how the seat-count will play out, but the seat count is where the election counts (and likely where the mainstream media will focus on tomorrow evening)

We can only hope that this will be a minority government because chances are, Canada will get another one-sided Canadian DMCA and it will likely die on the order-paper like the first two attempts. The NDP have been vocal on the issues and have shown to voice the opinions expressed by Canadian artists and consumers. As Jared already points out, the NDP is for consumer rights and net neutrality.

We have already sent questions related to copyright to the various political parties only to have no responses come back unfortunately, so we really only have what is already known at this point.

So, whether it’ll be a Liberal government or a Conservative government, it’s more than likely we’ll get a Canadian DMCA. Let’s hope that it’s a minority government so it can be reasonably scrutinized.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

1 Trackback or Pingback

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: