CRIA's Graham Henderson was in Ottawa today together with several other music groups to make their case for immediate copyright reform. Perhaps responding to the recent masthead editorials in the Vancouver Sun and National Post, the group met with the Ottawa Citizen's editorial board which has posted an MP3 version of the conversation. While there are some shots at me (counterfactual information?) and the obligatory distribution of Barry Sookman's attack on me and the Facebook group, there are two story lines that are worth noting (in addition to the ironic use of the CMCC's Feist as the Canadian artist example and the weak response to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's concerns).
The first is that there is a great deal of common ground between what Henderson, CIRPA's Duncan McKie and the other attendees want and the Fair Copyright for Canada principles. Henderson and McKie both indicate that they have no intention of launching file sharing lawsuits, which should make the changes to the statutory damages provisions relatively non-contentious (though not a big win for users either). More importantly, several people in the room say they want WIPO, not the DMCA. That can be consistent with the Fair Copyright for Canada principles – linking anti-circumvention legislation to copyright infringement, avoiding a ban on devices that can be used to circumvent, and distribution as part of the making available right are all consistent with WIPO implementation.
While that is the good news, the second big story – which can easily be missed if you aren't paying attention – should send a chill down the spine of millions of Canadians.
Henderson cites with approval several initiatives to move toward ISP filtering of content, pointing to a French report, comments from the UK that such legislation could be forthcoming, and the AT&T negotiations in the U.S. Later in the conversation, the group is asked what their dream legislation would look like. The first response? ISP liability, with the respondent pointing to Belgium as an example of an ideal model ("the file sharing issue will go away there as ISPs take down people"). Last summer, a Belgian court ordered an ISP to install filtering software to identify and block copyrighted content (the decision is currently being appealed).
If this reflects the current strategy – and there is reason to believe it does – it marks a dramatic change in the lobbying efforts. It suggests that not only are these groups seeking a Canadian DMCA, but they would like Industry Minister Jim Prentice to go even further by enacting constitutionally-dubious legislation requiring ISPs to identify and filter out content that is alleged to infringe copyright. Such an approach would be an enormous threat to the free flow of information online, it would curtail consumer rights, place new burdens on education and research, and create great harm to personal privacy. Mandatory filtering sounds better suited to China rather than Canada and one would hope that Prentice and the Conservatives would know better than to jump on the mandated ISP filtering bandwagon as it would undoubtedly generate even greater opposition from virtually all stakeholders. There would be political risks as well, since it would provide a clear opening for the Liberals to differentiate themselves from the Conservatives on copyright.