If the introduction of a Canadian DMCA were not bad enough, sources now indicate that Industry Minister Jim Prentice plans to delay addressing the copyright concerns of individual Canadians for years. Rather than including consumer concerns such as flexible fair dealing, time shifting, format shifting, parody, and the future of the private copying levy within the forthcoming bill, Prentice will instead strike a Copyright Review Panel to consider future copyright reforms. Modeled after the Telecom Policy Review Panel, the CRP will presumably take a year or two to consult Canadians on various copyright issues. In all likelihood, the government will then take another year or two to consider the recommendations, another year to propose potential reforms, another year or two to consult on those proposals, and another year or two to finally introduce legislation. Given that Canada has historically only passed major copyright reform once every ten years, Prentice will be in his early 60s and likely collecting his Member of Parliament pension by the time Canadians see copyright reform that addresses fair use.
While a consultation is a good idea, the government should be consulting on all copyright matters rather than caving now to U.S. demands while leaving Canadians consumers, educators, and other stakeholders out in the cold. The Industry Minister claimed last month to "put consumers first", yet his copyright plan represents a stunning abdication of his responsibility to represent the Canadian public interest. As the protests mount over his Canadian DMCA and his attempt to sidetrack consumer copyright concerns, Prentice should acknowledge the public outrage, hold off introducing the Canadian DMCA, and look for plan B. That would optimally mean conducting a broad public consultation (or striking a CRP with a full copyright review mandate) before introducing legislation. Alternatively, a revised bill could be introduced in February or March that better reflects the copyright balance by addressing consumer concerns now rather than in ten years time.