The Parallel Politics of the Environment and Copyright

The Hill Times this week features my special op-ed (Hill Times version, homepage version) on the parallels between the environment and copyright as mainstream political issues.  The similarities start with language – environmental advocates speak of protecting the environment and sustainable resources, while copyright advocates focus on the need to protect the public domain and to sustain access to Canadian culture. The two issues are also similarly complex.  The average Canadians knows little about the intricacies of fair dealing or technological protection measures, yet the implications of copyright policies that hamper free speech, privacy, security, and consumer rights are far easier to appreciate.  Indeed, recent developments both here and abroad suggest that the issue is beginning to garner increased attention from the general public.

Internationally, there have been noteworthy developments in the Nordic countries involving the iPod, the Swedish Pirate Party, the French debate over interoperability, and Australian implementation of anti-circumvention legislation. In Canada, copyright has begun to attract voter attention.  Thousands of Canadians have signed petitions on copyright that have been presented in the House of Commons and during the last election campaign copyright played a role in the defeat of Liberal incumbent Sarmite Bulte in Parkdale-High Park, following criticism over her ties to copyright lobby groups.  Grassroots organizations focused on copyright representing the interests of artists, musicians, and consumers have formed in recent months and obtained meetings with Ministers and opposition critics.  Not surprisingly, political parties have begun to take note of these developments.  Both the NDP and Green Party have adopted more user-focused policy positions and the door now open to the Liberal Party to do the same.

The column concludes by noting that the parallels between the environment and copyright are particularly relevant given the persistent reports that the Conservative government plans to introduce copyright reform legislation this fall.  If, as expected, a U.S. style approach is introduced, Canada will be ripe for the same opposition evidenced elsewhere as Canadians gradually learn of the proposal's damaging effects on fundamental freedoms, personal privacy, and consumer rights and Canada's opposition parties line up to court the "copyright vote."


  1. Parallels
    I too noted this a while back ( [ link ] ). Was struck by the mirroring effect on this issue as well. Might be interesting to see what they table for the environment as it may provide criticle clues as to what they could be thinking for Copyright related issues.

  2. Mercury Merlin says:

    Traditional copyright can’t/doesn’t/won’t work with digital content in a network age, and trying to force it to do so with digital restrictions just makes all the more painful finding a path towards sensible reform that can take us forward with policy that makes sense in the 21st century.

    It is no surprise if this moves to mainstream politics over time, as digital restrictions and excessive copyright privileges for holders bite on ordinary people.

  3. Andrew Steele says:

    I\’ve been thinking about these parallels recently and have realised that there\’s one difference between the two. \”Big Business\” approach is at odds with itself between the two issues. In the case of environmentalism, the corporate view is that if we have to internalise the environmental costs of our business we\’d go out of business. In short, we shouldn\’t have to pay for what we use. However, with Copyright, it\’s the opposite. The Copyright Corporations keep crying that people should have to pay for the content they use.