When Industry Minister Jim Prentice tries to justify a Canadian DMCA, he frequently claims that the business community is demanding these reforms. Those claims have now been completely undermined. Sources report that this afternoon, a powerhouse group of companies and business associations in Canada spoke up for fair and balanced copyright. The Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright includes a who's who of the telecom, Internet, retail, and broadcast communities. Signatories include the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), Canadian Association of Internet Providers, a division of CATAlliance (CAIP), Canadian Cable Systems Alliance (CCSA), Canadian Wireless and Telecommunications Association (CWTA), Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), Retail Council of Canada (RCC), Google, Third Brigade, Tucows, Yahoo! Canada, Cogeco Cable, EastLink, MTS Allstream, Rogers Communications Inc., SaskTel, and Telus. Yes - you just read right - Google, Yahoo!, Rogers, Telus, Cogeco, and dozens of other companies are speaking out as the largest cable companies, largest retailers, largest broadcasters, largest Internet companies, and most of the major telcos have all joined forces to oppose a Canadian DMCA.
What does this new coalition stand for? An excerpt from the proposed package includes [UPDATE: The position paper is available here ]:
1. Expanded Fair Dealing - "if Canada is to truly modernize its copyright legislation, then the time has come for Canada to broaden the existing fair dealing rights in the Act by adopting a more flexible approach that is illustrative rather than exhaustive."
2. TPMs - "rules against the circumvention of effective technological measures that are used by rights owners in connection with the exercise of their rights must not prohibit Canadians from engaging in non-infringing activities."
3. Making Available - "to the extent necessary to meet its WIPO obligations, Canada should introduce only a very narrow exclusive right of making available for those rights owners who need it to protect the legitimate online distribution of their works."
4. Private Copying - "the government should seriously question the continued existence of the private copying regime."
5. Avoid Copyright Liability for Technical Processes - "the Act should be amended to grant broadcasters a full and meaningful exception from the reproduction right, similar to that which exists in most other developed countries."
6. ISP Liability - "as all of Canada's major trading partners have long recognized, Internet service providers should face no copyright liability when acting as intermediaries."
7. Rational and Effective Enforcement - "while those who infringe copyright on a commercial scale or to the material prejudice of rights holders should be subject to appropriate penalties, courts should have more flexibility to limit damages in circumstances where there is only minimal harm to rights holders resulting from the conduct."
It is difficult to overstate the importance of this new coalition and its support for fair copyright principles. With such an impressive list of backers, the Industry Minister must now surely recognize that his proposed bill is opposed by the very industries that he has promised to support. In the past, I've described a Canadian DMCA as anti-education and anti-consumer - it is now unquestionably anti-business as well.
Update: Google has posted on the coalition on the Google Policy Blog. The CBC has detailed coverage here.
Tuesday February 12, 2008