Unlike the 2006 election campaign, when copyright reform issues generated political attention in the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, the current campaign has featured local discussions (here, here, here) but has yet to find its "copyright moment." That is not to say that copyright has been entirely absent – copyright concerns have arisen in the context of political advertising with claims of Conservative copyright infringement serving as a useful reminder of the restrictions under the current law. Moreover, the absence of copyright discussion from the red-hot culture funding fight demonstrates how little political payoff there is for unbalanced copyright reform as the same groups that applauded C-61 are now among the Conservatives' fiercest critics (ACTRA – before, after; CIRPA – before, after).
With several weeks left in the campaign, there is still a chance to build on the recent emergence of a strong voice for fair copyright in Canada. I have crafted the following 2008 copyright pledge:
Will you commit to a balanced approach to copyright reform that reflects the views of all Canadians by pledging:
1. To respect the rights of creators and consumers.
2. Not to support any copyright bill that undermines or weakens the Copyright Act’s users rights.
3. To fully consult with Canadians before introducing any copyright reform bill and to conduct inclusive, national hearings on any tabled bill.
While I certainly hope for more from copyright reform (see my fair copyright principles), I believe this a balanced starting point that respects the concerns of all stakeholders and provides a reasonable path toward reform. If you agree, there are at least three things you can do. First, urge all political parties to agree to the pledge. Second, raise the issue with your local candidates – attend a town hall meeting or debate, pose the question if a candidate knocks at your door, or send an email to all the candidates in your riding. Third, email your copyright question to email@example.com. There are still 18 days left in the campaign which provides plenty of time to ensure that fair copyright concerns are heard before election day.
Update: My initial posting asked parties (not candidates) to "sign on to" the pledge. As noted in the comments, a candidate cannot legally "sign a written document" that would incorporate the pledge. Of course, no one is asking either parties or candidates to sign anything. In the same manner that parties have promised to increase arts funding or introduce anti-spam legislation, they can certainly commit to the copyright approach described above.
Update II: In response to several requests, a French language version of the pledge:
Vous engagerez-vous dans une approche équilibrée de la réforme sur le droit d'auteur qui reflète les opinions de tous les Canadiens et Canadiennes en promettant:
1. de respecter les droits des créateurs et des consommateurs
2. de ne pas supporter tout projet de loi sur le droit d'auteur détruisant ou diminuant les droits des utilisateurs face à la Loi sur le droit d'auteur
3. De consulter pleinement les Canadiens et Canadiennes avant d'introduire toute réforme sur le droit d'auteur et de tenir des audiences nationales inclusives sur tout projet de loi proposé.