Copyright Industry Lobbying Floods the Canadian Government

Major record labels, movie studios, and major software developers continue to heavily lobby the Canadian government over copyright issues.

Canada has been seen by some corporations as a soft target for restrictive copyright laws. Unfortunately for those who wish to tighten copyright laws at the expense of the consumer, Canada is proving to be much more resilient against this foreign based influence then what many had thought over the years. While things seem a bit quiet outside of the major push to establish widespread Internet censorship, a different story is being told behind the scenes.

According to recently published statistics, the copyright industry represents 80% of all lobbying visits with respect to copyright related matters. The statistics go as far back as 2015. Michael Geist says that these latest statistics show that the Canadian government is largely hearing a one-sided story on copyright matters.

The case he brings forward does show a few things. For one, it shows that major corporate interests that are foreign based are still lobbying the Canadian government quite heavily. This has been a trend for the last decade, but it does show that this trend does continue whether Canadians realize it or not. It also suggests that the industry is undeterred by the messaging that the Canadian government says they believe in network neutrality – a concept that would theoretically block many of the policy proposals made by the copyright industry in the first place.

Of course, digging into the statistics, there are some curious patterns on how the lobbying is taking place.

One pattern one may notice is the fact that, in 2015, there was almost no lobbying at all. Why that is is a perfectly legitimate question. For that, all one has to do is think back to when the last election took place. That, of course, happened in late 2015.

At that point in time, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper was seeking another majority government despite the scandals that were occurring at the time. Polls were sliding for the party while at the same time, celebrity candidate Justin Trudeau was leading the Liberal party. All indications accurately pointed to a change in government. So, it was unclear until the election how things would shake up in the end.

The other thing to keep in mind is that election season is typically a time for political fundraising. Things like $1,000+ per plate dinners, cocktail parties, and various other fundraising events take place where corporate interests and political representatives rub shoulders and exchange cash for potential influence. So, that would put a downward pressure on lobbying activity for the year as well. Why waste your time on more traceable efforts to influence the government through direct lobbying when you can follow the campaign trail instead?

So, the next point of interest is 2016 where lobbying shoots up. At this point in time, the reality of a Liberal majority government is setting in. There won’t be another election for another 4 years. Of course, even in a stable government situation, massing laws do take time. So, it would theoretically be ideal to hit the government hard early so as to get them to pass laws more favourable now. The earlier the process is started, the better.

The other thing to keep in mind is what exactly was going on at the time. In this case, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was in full swing. That agreement had many anti-consumer provisions in it such as a three strikes law, account termination, site blocking, unlimited damages for copyright infringement, and border measures that would permit the seizure of cellphones for the purpose of enforcing copyright laws. Many legitimately feared that, through implementing this trade agreement, those laws would also be pushed through government with little to not debate.

So, from the copyright industry’s standpoint, it makes sense to be lobbying the government to implement these failed laws sooner rather than later. After all, this did represent a golden opportunity to pull a fast one by putting a Trojan horse into trade agreement legislation. Of course, with increased public awareness thanks in part to our thorough reporting, there was already pushback against this agreement. Ultimately, in Canada, the draconian copyright provisions didn’t make it into the final implementation bill. From the consumers perspective, this is a pleasantly surprising development.

Moving on to 2017, some statistics showed an increase in lobbying while other statistics showed a slight drop. Overall, the amount of lobbying was relatively similar to the year earlier. From a political perspective on the copyright industry’s side, that does make sense. You are only one year into the Liberal government and there is still plenty of time to push an anti-consumer agenda. It’s not necessarily an ideal circumstance, but there is still time to make something happen.

The other thing to remember is that, at minimum, throughout 2017, the website blocking proposal by the copyright industry was being formulated. While some observers might point out that a lot of that revolves around Canadian regulators, as we pointed out, the site blocking push is a two-pronged approach with foreign controlled representatives pushing for it at the federal government level.

Of course, as Australians know all too well, site blocking is a failed policy. The only things censorship policies prove is that censorship on the Internet doesn’t work, it curtails free speech, and such policies are ripe for abuse in cases that don’t even have anything to do with copyright law in the first place.

Moving up to this year, one can easily notice a drop in lobbying. Of course, the thing to keep in mind is that 2018 is far from over at this point and plenty of lobbying can occur until the end of the year.

The other thing is that if something isn’t started by now, it is increasingly unlikely that such efforts would bear fruit at this point. So, at this point, Internet censorship is being pushed still. Chances are, the effort will focus a lot around pushing that policy because, from the lobbyists perspective, there is still technically time for such policies to be implemented. The election is about a year away at this point, so the window of opportunity is certainly beginning to close at this point.

We don’t know at this point how pro or anti-consumer Canadian regulators are going to be at this stage. So, there is that complication of what Canadian regulators are going to do. Any major move the regulators do in relationship to Internet censorship can very easily have an impact on how the federal government push operates. If the regulators see through the copyright industries lobbying, then that puts all the pressure on the foreign corporate interests to push through censorship on the legislative side. If the regulators go full anti-consumer, then it eases that pressure to push for laws that call for the same.

So, while the lobbying statistics do paint an interesting picture of the situation in Canada, there is a very complex story to be told behind those statistics. That, of course, is not to say the numbers aren’t truthful, but there are a lot of things to consider when examining the data.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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