As I noted in a post yesterday, Access Copyright has filed its response to the Copyright Board of Canada’s series of questions about fair dealing and education in the tariff proceedings involving Canadian post-secondary institutions. Yesterday’s post focused on how Access Copyright has urged the Copyright Board to ignore the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling on the relevance of licences to a fair dealing analysis. Today’s post examines the collective’s response to the Copyright Board’s question on the effect of the fair dealing legislative change in Bill C-32/C-11. Access Copyright engages in revisionist history as it seeks to hide its extensive lobbying campaign that warned that the reforms would permit mass copying without compensation.
For two years during the debates over the bill, Access Copyright stood as the most vocal opponent of the expansion of the fair dealing purposes to include education. Given its frequent public comments and lobbying efforts on the bill, one would think its response to the Copyright Board, would be pretty straight-forward. For example, it created a copyright reform website – CopyrightGetitRight.ca – that warned:
the education exception will permit mass, industrial-scale copying (equivalent to millions of books every year) without compensation to the creators and publishers who invested their creativity, skill, money and effort to produce this content.
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Industry Canada and Canadian Heritage launched a consultation yesterday on the rules associated with the Internet service provider notice-and-notice system that was established in Bill C-11, the copyright reform bill enacted in June 2012. Responses to the consultation are due by November 8, 2013. Most of the bill took effect in November 2012, but the government delayed implementation of the ISP rules, with expectation of a consultation and regulations to follow. It has taken nearly a full year, but the consultation was sent to undisclosed stakeholders with the promise to bring the notice-and-notice system into effect “in the near future.”
The notice-and-notice system allows copyright owners to send infringement notices to ISPs, who will be legally required to forward the notification to their subscribers. If an ISP fails to forward the notifications, it must explain why or face the prospect of damages that run as high as $10,000. ISPs must also retain information on the subscriber for six months (or 12 months if court proceedings are launched). Copyright owners may also send notifications to search engines, who must remove content that has been removed from the original source within 30 days. The notices must meet a prescribed form that includes details on the sender, the copyright works and the alleged infringement.
Despite some expectation that the consultation would place several issues on the table – form issues for notices, data retention, and costs for notices among them – the language used in the consultation letter suggests that the government is likely to simply bring the rules as articulated in the law into effect with no further regulations at all. It states:
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Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore tabled the WIPO Internet Treaties (the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty) earlier this week in the House of Commons, starting the process of Canadian ratification of the treaties. The move does not come as a surprise since Bill C-11, which received royal assent just over one year ago, was designed to bring ensure Canadian law conformed to the treaty requirements.
While there were some suggestions that the next step is formal notification with WIPO in Geneva, there are actually several steps required in Canada that will likely mean the treaties won’t be in force in Canada until early 2014 (I wrote about the treaty ratification process in 2008). First, the treaties are subject to a waiting period of 21 sitting days. During that period, MPs may debate the treaties in the House, raise questions, or bring motions related to the treaty. The 21 sitting day period started on June 12th. Since the House is scheduled to break for the summer next week, the period will not be completed until the first week of October. Once this process is completed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs may then seek legal authority, through an Order in Council, for Canada to prepare instruments of ratification of the two treaties. Once the instruments of ratification are deposited with WIPO, there is a further three month delay from the date of deposit.
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Given recent reports that a Montreal-based company has captured data on one million Canadians who it says have engaged in unauthorized file sharing, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before widespread file sharing lawsuits came to Canada. It now appears that those lawsuits are one step closer as TekSavvy, a leading independent ISP, has announced that it has received a motion seeking the names and contact information of thousands of customers (legal documents here). To TekSavvy’s credit, the company insists that it will not provide subscriber information without a court order and it has sent notices to affected customers.
The notifications have generated considerable online discussion with some recipients indicating that they have been wrongly targeted. Others wonder what comes next. As I suggested in my posts on this issue, the next steps likely include the following:
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The Canadian Internet community has been buzzing for the past week over reports that a Montreal-based company has captured data on one million Canadians who it says have engaged in unauthorized file sharing. While that represents a relatively small percentage of Internet users in Canada, the possibility of hundreds of thousands of lawsuits over alleged copyright infringement would be unprecedented and raise a host of legal and policy issues.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the prospect of mass lawsuits will be of particular interest to the federal government, which just completed a major round of copyright reforms. The new copyright bill established a cap on damages that was explicitly designed to dissuade would-be litigants from targeting individuals. In fact, during hearings into the copyright reform bill, Members of Parliament were given assurances that the industry had no desire to launch file sharing lawsuits.
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