Notwithstanding these developments, the focus will undoubtedly shine on the bills and policies that were started but not completed. These include:
- the digital economy strategy
- a policy on foreign investment in telecommunications
- a policy on foreign ownership in book publishing and distribution
- a policy on the forthcoming wireless spectrum auction
- Bill C-29, a bill to reform PIPEDA
- Bill C-32, the copyright reform bill
- Bills C-50, 51, 52, the lawful access bills
- Bill C-393, the private members bill to facilitate access to generic medicines in Africa
The future for each of these initiatives varies.
The privacy bill is probably dead. PIPEDA faces another statutorily-mandated review this year, so any future government is likely to wait for the results of that review before re-introducing privacy reform. Given that it took four years to get this bill, that does not bode well for meaningful privacy reform in the foreseeable future.
Many people may welcome the demise of the copyright bill, but I must admit that I’m not one of them. This is the third copyright bill to have hit the scrap heap, following in the footsteps of Bills C-60 and C-61, neither of which made it past first reading. Bill C-32 is obviously the closest Canada has come to digital copyright reform – a full public consultation in 2009, a bill in 2010, and several months of committee hearings into 2011.
I always described the bill as flawed but fixable and that remained my sense after the many committee witnesses. The committee process did provide some valuable information – confirmation of the effectiveness of the notice-and-notice system, the broad support for a digital lock exception for non-infringing purposes (including consumer groups, education, libraries, retailers, and telecom companies), and the value of codifying the Supreme Court of Canada’s fair dealing test into the Copyright Act to address uncertainty concerns. No matter the outcome of the upcoming election, copyright reform will quickly be back on the legislative agenda (though likely not until late 2011), hopefully in amended form that builds on the good in C-32 and the lessons learned through months of hearings and public feedback.