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    Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright Speaks Out Against Canadian DMCA

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    Tuesday February 12, 2008

    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.


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    Prentice's Failure to Communicate

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    Sunday February 10, 2008
    Industry Minister Jim Prentice paid a visit to the University of Calgary on Friday to give a lecture at the law school on policy making.  In the question and answer period that followed, the majority of questions focused on copyright (Part One, Part Two) [update: The Distant  Librarian has posted a video of the full talk and Q&A period].  Prentice's responses provide five important insights:

    First, despite the enormous opposition to a Canadian DMCA, Prentice continues to rely on a communication strategy based on tired claims about the WIPO Internet treaties and how copyright is a "framework" law in Canada.  A Canadian DMCA will face opposition from consumer groups, education groups, creator groups, and business groups.  Prentice is going to have come up with a much better communication strategy to justify a one-sided copyright law.

    Second, Prentice will respond to concerns about the lack of consultation by claiming that there has been extensive consultation, pointing to the 2001 public consultation and several Parliamentary committee reports.  This claim does not withstand even mild scrutiny. 
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    Angus Issues Three-Step Approach for Effective Copyright Reform

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    Wednesday February 06, 2008
    NDP MP Charlie Angus has issued a "three-step approach" for effective copyright legislation.  Angus rightly emphasizes the need for further consultation:

    1.      Live up to the government's commitment to bring the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaty to the House of Commons for a vote before introducing new legislation;

    2.      Ensure adequate consultation prior to introducing news legislation between Parliamentarians with affected stakeholder groups including arts/artist groups, educators, software innovators, consumer groups and everyday Canadians;

    3.      Ensure new legislation addresses the reality of technological innovation so that artistic creators can be fairly compensated in a rapidly changing paradigm of information transmission and storage.
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    Prentice Backtracks On Treaty Policy

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    Monday February 04, 2008
    The Hill Times turns itself over to copyright this week with no less than four articles and op-eds on the topic (including one from me revealing a secret meetings between CRIA and the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Wilson).  The most important of article is a front page, lead article that is freely available titled "Prentice Backtracks on Treaty Policy, Copyright to Be Exempted."  The article, which includes coverage of the Copyright MPs, notes that just one week ago Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier unveiled a new policy to table international treaties in the House of Commons for debate before proceeding with steps toward ratification.  This policy, which mirrors policies found in the UK and Australia, fulfilled a campaign promise from 2006.

    Yet one week later, Bill Rodgers, Prentice's communication director, is quoted as saying that they plan to introduce the copyright bill first and deal with ratification later.  That is in direct contradiction to the stated policy and clearly counter to the Foreign Minister who says in the same piece "I'm very pleased with this new policy and we'll see in the future what we'll do with that."  If Rodgers is right, what the Conservatives plan to do with it, is ignore it.  As NDP MP Charlie Angus notes, Bernier and the government are about to look fairly foolish as they try to talk their way out of their own policy and their own campaign promise.
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