Ottawa has played host to many digital economy-type conferences over the years. Many have the same feel with pretty much the same people saying pretty much the same thing. Yesterday's conference titled Canada's Digital Economy: Moving Forward was different. The primary reason was leadership (the noteworthy impact of Twitter on the proceedings and Terry Matthews' warning against mimicking the U.S. on copyright which he said "has become so extreme that it inhibits creativity and innovation" rank a close behind). Both Industry Minister Tony Clement and Canadian Heritage James Moore left no doubt that they get it and are determined to craft laws and policies that look ahead rather than behind.
Clement closed the conference by noting how much has changed in the year since Bill C-61 was introduced. Clement said that it was "at least a somewhat different" public policy environment and committed to a copyright consultation this summer:
Moore was even more forceful with remarks that I doubt that we have ever heard from a Canadian Heritage Minister, who provided an inspirational talk on the potential of new technologies. He closes with:
The old way of doing things is over. These things are all now one. And it's great. And it's never been better. And we need to be enthusiastic and embrace these things. I point out the average age of a member of parliament because don't assume that those who are making the decisions and who are driving the debate understand all the dynamics that are at play here. Don't assume that everybody understands the opportunities that are at play here and how great this can be for Canada. Tony is doing his job and I'm going to do my job and be a cheerleader and push this and to fight for the right balance as we go forward. The opportunities are unbelievable and unparalleled in human history.
Last year's experience with Bill C-61 left thousands of Canadians deeply disappointed with government on copyright policy. Yesterday's remarks signal an important shift with both Clement and Moore clearly committed to more open consultation and to the development of a balanced copyright bill that better reflects the real-world realities of new technologies, innovation, new creators, and the reasonable expectations of Canadian consumers.