Howard Berman, the U.S. Congressman who is sometimes called the "representative from Hollywood", was at it again today, leading hearings at the Foreign Affairs Committee on Global IP Theft that quickly became yet another case of "Blame Canada." As implausible at seems, there is a regular sport in the U.S. of claiming that Canada is the source of evil when it comes to IP laws.
At today's hearing, Berman demanded that Canada implement the WIPO Internet treaties, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees inaccurately claimed that " Canadian movie theaters account for nearly 50 percent of all camcorded sources worldwide" and urged Canada to pass legislation similar to the DMCA (Disney Chair Richard Cook noted that the anti-camcording law has reduced Canadian camcording), and Universal Music Group President Zach Horowitz claimed that Canada has the highest level of online piracy in the world, that we are a haven for unauthorized music sites, and that "there is no recourse against online theft." After this misleading and inaccurate testimony, Horowitz then urged the Congessional panel to ask Canadian officials "to explain their reputation as a nation unfriendly to the policies at the heart of copyright and the realities of the borderless digital marketplace."
The Congressional panel need not wait until they meet with Canadian officials. If Canada suffers from this reputation (and I do not believe that it does), the reason is because people like Horowitz do their utmost to unfairly malign Canadian law. The reality is:
- that there are many areas where Canadian copyright law is stronger than the U.S.
- that we are not a haven for unauthorized music sites (indeed, the U.S. industry has far more lawsuits against U.S. sites and services than can be found in Canada)
- that Canadian law can be used against online infringement, including the potential use of statutory damages
- that according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Canada's contribution to piracy seizures is so low that it does not even merit a mention
- that the U.S. industry now appears to emulating Canada's notice-and-notice system
I could go on. Yet despite this reality, these nonsensical claims led Congressional representatives to consider whether they should violate international copyright law by denying protection to Canadian works or by having the U.S. government retailiate against Canada. If there is a lesson here, it is that no matter what Canada does – tax breaks for U.S. studios, anti-camcording legislation, participation in ACTA, etc. – it will never be enough. All the more reason to ignore the noise, rise above the pressure, and legislate in our national interest.