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."