Earlier today I walked a few blocks from my office to Ottawa’s Rideau Centre to attend a press conference with Industry Minister Tony Clement and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, who promised an important announcement. The two ministers stood in front of an HMV and a group of students wearing t-shirts with No iPod tax logos on the back to declare that they were firmly set against a massive new tax on technology for all the holiday shoppers in the mall. The Ministers claimed that all three opposition parties supported a tax of up to $75, which (reminiscent of the Dion “tax on everything” campaign) would apply to all technology devices and even cars.
The press conference suggests that opposition to extending the private copying levy may be the key positioning point for the government in support of Bill C-32. Rather than focusing on the bill’s actual provisions, the government will argue that the bill deserves support from the public because of what isn’t there – the levy extension. However, an alternate press conference might have featured the following script (the actual script is here):
“We are here to confirm that the Harper Government will bring in legal protection for digital locks as part of its copyright legislation. As government officials recently told MPs, these digital lock rules will trump all educational fair dealing rights. The digital lock rules have been opposed by all opposition parties.
“We simply cannot support the opposition’s opposition to the digital lock rules. The digital lock rules will allow the music, movie, book, and software industries to insert digital locks on their products and force consumers to pay multiple times for the same content. To not include the provisions, would hurt the economy, punish U.S. companies, and send the wrong message during this fragile economic recovery.
“Our government is committed to ensuring that the U.S. is satisfied with our approach as we update Canada’s copyright laws. The digital locks rules are fair to everyone. There are thousands of DVDs in this HMV store and consumers should not have the right to play them on their iPads or other devices.
“We would also like to emphasize that the Government has introduced the Copyright Modernization Act, Bill C-32, to modernize Canada’s copyright legislation and bring it into the digital age. We drafted this Bill to best balance legalizing many of the everyday activities that Canadians are already engaging in online and ensuring that creators and rights holders have the protections they need to earn a living from their work in the digital age. That obviously means new digital lock rules that trump all other consumer rights and limit the property rights of consumers. It also means making it more expensive for Canadian consumers to switch from devices such as the iPad to RIM’s Playbook, the forthcoming alternative from Canada’s leading technology company.
“Bill C-32 includes new rights and protections to help consumers record television shows, make backup copies, and format shift products they have purchased. It is true that all of these new rights can be trumped by a digital lock, but to not include the digital lock provisions would send the wrong message to the U.S., who has demanded them. It is also true that other countries such as New Zealand and Switzerland have adopted more balanced approaches on digital lock rules, but we would prefer to ignore those examples. We’d also prefer to ignore the fact that even some creator groups have come out against the digital lock rules.
“The U.S. and the major entertainment companies can rest assured that the Harper Government will stand with them in introducing these digital lock rules.
“Our government’s top priority remains the economy. During this fragile economic recovery, the last thing Canadian families and consumers need are modernized copyright rules that provide real consumer rights.”