With the Canadian version of the DMCA likely to be introduced within the next two weeks, there has a remarkable outpouring of interest from individual Canadians about what they can do to have their concerns heard. The unfortunate reality is that there is nothing can be done about what the bill will look like when it is introduced – Industry Minister Jim Prentice has simply decided discard consumer, education, research, and privacy interests, ignore his own party’s policy platform, and the cave into U.S. pressure. Once the bill is introduced, however, Canadians can send a message to their MPs, the Ministers, and others, calling for a fair copyright bill that addresses Canadian concerns (those in Calgary can do so in person on December 8th as Prentice hosts an open house).
Many people have pointed to the my 30 Things You Can Do posting. I’ve decided to update the posting – and create a short YouTube video – to better reflect the current situation. I’ve also launched a Facebook group called Fair Copyright. The next 60 days are absolutely crucial. If Canadians speak out in large numbers, the government may rethink its current strategy of fast-tracking the Canadian DMCA.
What can you do?
- Write to your local Member of Parliament. Nothing is more obvious or more important. Letters (which are better than email) from just a handful of constituents is enough to get the attention of your local MP. It is often a good idea to ask the MP to forward your letter to the relevant Ministers. Contact information for all MPs is available here. Online Rights Canada also provides an easy way to write to your local MP.
- Write to the Prime Minister of Canada. Contact information here.
- Write to Jim Prentice, the Minister of Industry. Minister Prentice is responsible for the Copyright Act in Canada. Despite the fact that Minister Prentice trumpeted his pro-consumer approach on the spectrum auction issue, the rumour mill suggests that he supports DMCA-style reforms and has little interest in advocating for consumer concerns. Minister Prentice’s contact information is here.
- Write to Josee Verner, the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Minister Verner is one of the two ministers responsible for copyright policy in Canada. Prior Canadian Heritage Ministers have been perceived to be close to U.S. copyright lobby groups and copyright collectives. Ministry contact information here. Minister Verner’s contact information is here.
- Write to James Rajotte, the Chair of the House of Commons Industry Committee. Rajotte is an Alberta MP who chairs the powerful Industry Committee. His committee will likely lead the review of the bill. If the government tries to fast-track the bill, there will be enormous pressure to limit the diversity of voices before the committee. Rajotte should be urged to ensure that they hear from all stakeholders and all perspectives. Contact information here.
- Write to Canadian Heritage’s Copyright Policy Branch. The Copyright Policy Branch is home to a large contingent of bureaucrats focused on copyright matters. Contact information here.
- Write to Industry Canada’s Intellectual Property Policy Directorate. The IPPD is Industry Canada’s counterpart on copyright policy, though it addresses a broader range of IP issues. Contact information here.
- Write to your local Member of Provincial Parliament or Member of the Legislative Assembly. There is a strong provincial dimension to copyright reform, particularly given its impact on education, privacy, consumer issues, and property rights. In fact, some scholars believe that the law may face a constitutional challenge by overstepping into provincial jurisdiction. The provinces have remained largely silent on copyright, yet they may be forced to address many of the unintended consequences that arise from federal Copyright Act reform. Contact information for Ontario MPPs here.
- Write to your Provincial Minister of Education. The provincial education ministers, represented by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada pursued a disasterous strategy of promoting an ill-advised educational Internet exception rather than emphasizing the need for more flexible fair dealing and limiting the harms associated with DRM. Having lost badly, they need to step up to the plate to defend education interests. Contact information for Ontario Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne is here. For the other Ministers of Education see here.
- Write to your local school board or University President. Local school boards can play an important role in the copyright reform process by engaging teachers, parents, and students. Contact information for Ontario school boards here. Canadian Universities have done little to defend the interests of teachers and students by also failing to defend the need for more flexible fair dealing and the harms associated with DRM. Contact information for individual Universities here.
- Write a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs on Canada’s international copyright position. Canada has remained disappointingly silent on important international copyright issues at WIPO (for example, see my recent column on the WIPO Broadcast Treaty). DFAIT should be standing up for Canadian interests at such international meetings as well as during bi-lateral trade negotiations with the United States. They should make clear that Canada can meet the WIPO standards by doing far less than what is found in the DMCA. Contact information here.
- Write to Library and Archives Canada to ask that it support the preservation of Canadian heritage. The LAC should be a leading voice against the use of DRM that could lock Canadians out of their own heritage. Earlier this year, new legislation took effect that guaranteed the preservation of electronic books that contain DRM by mandating that they be provided in an unlocked format. Why should individual Canadians receive anything less? Contact information here.
- Write to the Competition Bureau of Canada. The combination of DRM and anti-circumvention legislation raises significant marketplace competition concerns. The Competition Bureau must become engaged on this issue by advocating pro-competitive reforms. Moreover, it should be investigating cases of alleged abusive use of DRM. Contact information here.
- Write the Office of Consumer Affairs or your provincial consumer protection ministry. The use of DRM raises numerous consumer concerns, potentially requiring specific consumer protection provisions and labeling requirements. The federal OCA can be contacted here. Provincial contacts here.
- Write to your federal or provincial privacy commissioner to ask for their support in protecting your personal privacy against DRM. Several of Canada’s privacy commissioners have publicly called on the government to address the privacy concerns associated with copyright reform, a position which deserves public support. In fact, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has argued that the copyright law should be subject to a privacy impact assessment. There is no indication that this has been done. Privacy commissioner contacts here.
- Raise the issue with your local library or school. The library community has been very engaged on copyright and will undoubtedly be a vocal stakeholder for any future reforms. At the local level, libraries can be encouraged to establish copyright policies that fully support user rights and to educate the local community on important access issues. Ontario public library directory here. Moreover, if you are in school or have children currently in school, inquire how the school addresses copyright issues. Does it take full advantage of user rights? Is it aware of how the education exceptions may be limited by anti-circumvention legislation?
- Join the Facebook Fair Copyright Group. Canadians are by far the world’s biggest adopters of Facebook. Join this group and participate in local and national advocacy efforts.
- Sign a petition. There are petitions calling on the Canadian government to adopt a balanced approach to copyright here and here.
- Add your name to the Online Rights Canada mailing list. Online Rights Canada is a grassroots advocacy group that brings together EFF and CIPPIC to focus on online rights issues. Mailing list information here.
- Ask each political party where it stands on copyright. The Conservative view on copyright will be apparent with the bill. The NDP is expected to oppose, the Bloc support (even though the bill will represent a significant incursion into provincial rights), and the Liberals could go either way. Raise the issue with each party and ask it to prioritize discussion and debate over this bill.
- Support music labels that offer their music without DRM or copy-controls. This one is easy since virtually every Canadian label does not use copy-control technologies. The exceptions are the foreign labels represented by CRIA such as Sony BMG.
- Ensure that your local retailer will accept returns on DRM’d products. Many retailers sell DRM’d products without altering return policies to account for the fact that the products may not function as expected. Raise this with your local retailer and encourage them to adopt liberal return policies for DRM’d products.
- Ask your ISP what it is doing to stand up for your rights. Canada’s Internet service providers play an important role in defending user rights by only disclosing subscriber personal information with a court order, informing subscribers of requests for their personal information, and by lobbying for an expanded fair dealing provision. Ask your ISP for its policies on these issues.
- Participate in a local meeting on copyright. There are a growing number of local “meetup” style meetings that bring together citizens concerned with balanced copyright. If there is a meeting group in your area, go. If not, get one started.
- Support more balanced copyright positions from artists and creator groups. Many artists and creators are increasingly abandoning policy positions that favour U.S. style reforms and instead embracing a more balanced approach. If you are a musician, consider joining the CMCC. If you are an artist, consider joining the Appropriation Art coalition. If you are a writer, consider pushing for change within Access Copyright.
- Use Creative Commons licensing. Creative Commons, which adopts a “some rights reserved” approach to copyright provides an exceptional (and exceptionally easy) method of supporting both copyright and access. More information on the Canadian licenses here.
- Read license terms. My 30 Days of DRM project focused on the increasing use of contract to limit or eliminate user rights. Until legislation blocks the use of such terms, consumers should proactively read license terms and reject those that unfairly limit their user rights.
- Track media coverage of copyright. Until recently, media coverage on copyright rarely questioned the sound bites from the copyright lobby. That is changing, but Canada’s media should be challenged when it fails to do so. Letters to the editor or a op-eds are a great place to start.
- Educate yourself. There are lots of great sources for information on fair approaches to copyright. In addition to my site – particularly the 30 Days of DRM project and a forthcoming copyright microsite, check out Digital-Copyright.ca, FairCopyright.ca, CopyrightWatch, CIPPIC, Howard Knopf, and Jeremy deBeer. Another useful source is In the Public Interest: The Future of Canadian Copyright Law, a book published last year by Irwin Law under a Creative Commons license. The book, which I edited, features contributions from 19 professors from across Canada. You can also listen to a podcast version of my Hart House lecture from last year or the podcast of my CFS talk from last month which also touched on these issues.
- Educate others. Once you know more about copyright reform issues, tell others. Educate friends, family, and co-workers. Copyright impacts us all.
Many people have asked for a short note on why this bill is bad for Canadians. I’ve obviously written a lot about Canadian copyright and copyright reform, but in my view it boils down to three primary concerns.
First, the bill is likely to include provisions (the anti-circumvention provisions) that have been proven to create significant harm to education, privacy protection, security research, free speech, and consumer interests. Indeed, anti-circumvention legislation trumps fair dealing, effectively eliminating crucial user rights in the digital era such as the right to use digital works without permission for research, private study, criticism, or news reporting. The government has emphasized the need to implement the WIPO Internet Treaties, however, those treaties provide far greater flexibility than what is found in the U.S. DMCA. It can meet the WIPO standard and preserve the copyright balance, but it must reject the U.S. path to do so.
Second, I’m troubled by what is not in the bill. If Canada is to amend the copyright law, then surely we ought to address issues that affect individual Canadians such as protecting parody, time shifting, device shifting, and the making of backup copies. We should eliminate crown copyright and restrict statutory damages awards to cases of commercial infringement. Yet none of this will be in the bill.
Third, I’m dismayed at the way this bill was created. The government last consulted Canadians on digital copyright issues in 2001. Technology and the Internet have changed dramatically since then, yet there have been no further consultations. Moreover, there is general recognition that this bill is chiefly the result of intense U.S. lobbying. The Industry Minister has time to meet with the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, time to meet all the major telcos on the spectrum auction issue, yet hasn’t made time to meet with user community on copyright.
Those are some of my concerns – what is in the bill, what isn’t in the bill, and how the bill came about – but I’m hopeful many Canadians will take the time to learn more and express their own views to their elected representatives.