Government of Canada Unveils Plans for Copyright Reform

Industry Canada and Canadian Heritage, the two departments responsible for copyright policy in Canada, this morning released a joint statement on plans for copyright reform. There is an additional FAQ that fleshes out the issues. A bill is expected this spring and the statement spells out where Canada is headed.

The key points include

  1. The government will implement the WIPO Internet treaties. Note that the government now speaks of implementing, rather than formally ratifying, the treaties. They indicate that they will consider ratification after this bill is passed.
  2. The package will include an anti-circumvention provision applied to copyright material. There is no mention of extending the provision to devices (as is the case in the U.S.) and the specific reference to applying the provision to copyright material suggests that the provision will limit its applicability to circumvention to commit copyright infringement. The rights management information is similarly limited to instances to further or conceal copyright infringement. While no anti-circumvention provision would be better, this suggests that the Canadian provision will feature some real balance. Moreover, the FAQ makes clear that the circumvention of a TPM applied to copyright material will only be illegal if it is carried out with the objective of infringing copyright. Legitimate access, as authorized by the Copyright Act, will not be altered. This is very different from anti-circumvention provisions found in the U.S. However, the FAQ also notes that circumvention for the purposes of private copying will not be permitted, meaning people may find themselves paying for a CD and paying a levy on blank CD yet unable to make the copy of the underlying CD.
  3. The recording industry gets some of their package a making available right and a full reproduction right for performers.
  4. A notice and notice system for ISPs rather than notice and takedown. Canadian ISPs will only be required to notify their subscriber of an infringement claim, not take the content down as is found in the U.S. The ISP will be required to retain subscriber information, however to ensure that it is available should litigation later arise. This is a major development as it implements a much fairer system than that found in the U.S. (or even the more draconian notice and termination system that CRIA raised last spring). The FAQ argues that this system is better suited to a P2P world, since notice and takedown simply doesn not work for P2P.
  5. The photographers copyright issue will also be addressed. It is not entirely clear how the reform will address the commissioning of photographs issue – an exception for private or domestic commissions is contemplated, but this one that really requires the legislative language. No word either on what will happen with the stalled Senate bill on this issue.
  6. As previously reported, the extended license for Internet materials has been shelved for now with a consultation on the issue planned for this year.
  7. The Act will include new provisions to facilitate electronic delivery of materials within schools and libraries. This is viewed as addressing the user side of the equation. It is a start but obviously user rights do notcommand the same attention as the rights holder groups.
  8. Other major issues for immediate consultation include private copying and broadcasters rights.

The devil will be in the details but this represents a major shift away from the embarrassingly one sided Canadian Heritage Standing Committee recommendations issued last May. While that report clearly pushed the agenda forward, the governments response has certainly recognized the need for some balance. Lots more on these issues to come.

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