Today marks the first day of the House of Commons summer recess, yet there are just 61 weekdays until it is scheduled to resume on September 15th. In light of that numerical coincidence, I am planning to run a 61 Reforms for C-61 series by posting a new necessary reform to the deeply flawed Canadian DMCA each weekday thoughout the recess. Many of the proposed changes will unsurprisingly focus on the anti-circumvention provisions. The 61 day series will be aggregated here (and I should note that my site now features a modest change with many of the C-61 postings readily accessible through pull-down menus in the top right corner).
The next 60 postings will identify specific flawed provisions in the bill or reforms that were not included. To start the series, however, one post on how we got here. It should be emphasized that Industry Minister Jim Prentice failed to properly consult the public before introducing C-61. The last full copyright consultation occurred in 2001, a timeframe that pre-dates the iPod and Facebook. There have been several House of Commons committee hearings that touch on copyright, though only one – the 2004 Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage Bulte report – directly focused on copyright reform. In my view, there is something fundamentally wrong about meeting with representatives from foreign governments and a handful of copyright lobbyists, while refusing to make time for education, consumer, and public interest groups. Indeed, many of the flaws in C-61 could have been addressed in advance with a proper consultation.
That said, Bill C-61 is a reality. My first reform is that the government should remedy the way in which this bill came about by ensuring that all voices are now heard. This will require a commitment to extensive committee consultations, including ample opportunity for Canadians to air their views, cross-country hearings to ensure access for all, and a willingness to take as long as needed to get this bill right. The Standing Committee on Industry is expected to take the lead and there should be significant time allocated toward consultations. Moreover, given the subject matter, the committee should work to identify methods of participation that extend beyond the (largely inaccessible) committee structure. This could include electronic town halls, online submissions, crowdsourced interviews, and more accessible methods of identifying proposed amendments to the bill. Too much of Bill C-61 reflects backroom dealings. The time has come to ensure that the future process better reflects Canadian voices and values.