Canadian DMCA To Be Tabled Within Weeks

In spite of repeated studies. In spite of the copyright consultation run by non other than the Canadian government. In spite of history. In spite of protests. In spite of letter writing campaigns. In spite of record labels and many Canadian stake holders. Reports are coming out that a Canadian DMCA will be tabled in a matter of weeks.

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

When Canada ran a public consultation, the results were very definitive and clear. Canadians don’t want another Bill C-61 and they want a more flexible fair dealing. Now, it seems, that there will be confirmation of the worst fears – the Canadian government ignoring Canadian interests and soon tabling yet another Canadian DMCA. We here at ZeroPaid were among the first to figure that this would happen and the evidence started with the throne speech earlier this year.

The throne speech effectively said that Canada is interested in strengthening intellectual property laws with upcoming copyright legislation. We compared these comments to the last throne speech when the last Conservative government Canadian DMCA was tabled and the differences were little more than cosmetic. Others held on to the hope that this will be the first time the Canadian government will actually listen to its own people.

The reasons we expressed scepticism over the optimistic predictions were many including what was said in the throne speech. One reason is that it would defy history of previous attempted DMCAs. There was fierce opposition in the past with Canadian DMCA attempts, but the Canadian government in all previous instances pretty much ignored public outcry in favour of foreign interests. Another reason was that there is a stereotype about the Conservative party (the current governing party) that they pretty much do whatever the US does. It’s a stereotype that holds a lot of truth and when the US wanted Canada to bend to their will, it’s hard to see this particular political party saying “no” no matter the political costs. Another reason was that the Conservative government already tabled a Canadian DMCA in the past, so tabling another wouldn’t be as surprising. An additional reason is that there are plenty in government that still see copyright as a side issue. There are plenty of other issues that dominate headlines. Tabling another Canadian DMCA doesn’t seem like an issue that would cost an election (maybe a few seats as seen in the Sam Bulte case, but not an entire election) so sacrificing a few supporters wouldn’t be seen as a big deal to the Conservatives. There are other reasons, at the time, to believe that the Canadian DMCA was coming this time around. So if you predicted that another Canadian DMCA was coming, your prediction, at this point, seems to be quite likely coming true.

Michael Geist, of course, is documenting this saying, “Moore has argued for a virtual repeat of Bill C-61, with strong digital locks provisions similar to those found in the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act and a rejection of a flexible fair dealing approach. Consistent with earlier comments on the need for a forward-looking, flexible approach, Clement argued for changes from C-61.”

“The bill is not expected until June,” Michael Geist adds, “but it will have dramatic repercussions once introduced. First, the bill represents a stunning reversal from the government’s seeming shift away from C-61 and its commitment to a bill based on the national copyright consultation. Instead, the consultation appears to have been little more than theatre, with the PMO and Moore choosing to dismiss public opinion. Second, after adopting distinctly pro-consumer positions on other issues, Moore has abandoned that approach with support for what may become the most anti-consumer copyright bill in Canadian history. Third, the bill will immediately impact the Canadian position at the ACTA and CETA negotiations, where the bill’s provisions on anti-circumvention and ISP liability will effectively become the Canadian delegation position.”

The CBC also was able to confirm that the bill is coming, but details of the bill were pretty much non-existent. For Canadian observers, there’s a definite sense of de-ja-vu. The last time copyright bill was about to be introduced, the government was similarly quiet on what the legislation contained. During a Fair Copyright for Canada protest, then minister of industry Jim Prentice, simply said that speculating on the contents of a bill is not productive and left the issue of the contents of the previous Canadian DMCA secret.

While the legislation this time around is mysterious on the details, we do know more so now that there will be a lot more losers than winners in the Canadian copyright debate. That just leaves one question, when will the copyright bill be tabled and will it pass?

That is one question no one will know for sure. The last two Canadian DMCAs were tabled (Liberals Bill C-60 and Conservatives Bill C-61), it almost seemed certain that the government was ready to sell out Canadians to a bunch of foreign lobbyists. Then a political storm in both cases rocked the system to the point that an election was called. That caused both pieces of legislation to die on the order paper.

What about now? There have already been a number of political controversies and one revolving around the issue of Canada’s roll in torture has the potential to spark a snap election. Should an election be called this early, it’s unlikely anyone will know for sure what was contained in the copyright reform bill this time around.

Ultimately, it seems to be a sure thing at this point that a new Canadian DMCA is approaching. Like the last few times a Canadian DMCA was tabled, it seems possible Canada will be spared draconian copyright laws thanks to an election. It’s sad that political instability has been the only thing protecting Canadians in this manner, but at this point, it may be the only thing that will save Canada in the end. In the mean time, writing letters to MPs is a very good way for Canadians voices to be heard and like before, that will probably be what Canadians will be doing now.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

Leave a Reply

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

%d bloggers like this: