The Real Story Behind Canada’s Copyright Plans

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version or free hyperlinked Ottawa Citizen version, homepage version) provides some context for last week s announcement on the government s plans for Canadian copyright reform. The immediate spin from the recording industry was that they were delighted with the push toward copyright reform. While I am sure they are happy that the government is doing something, a closer look at the actual proposals suggest that they did not get much of what they wanted.

CRIA was a big supporter of the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee's recommendations last May. The real story from last week s announcement was not P2P — downloading on P2P networks is untouched — but rather the near-complete rejection of the May recommendations. As I note in the column:

– The committee recommended the immediate ratification of the World Intellectual Property Organizations Internet treaties. The government, however, announced that it plans to implement provisions found in the treaties, but will delay ratification for the moment.
– The committee recommended the establishment of a notice and takedown system for Internet service providers that would encourage ISPs to remove content upon receipt of an allegation of copyright infringement. The government announced that it plans to establish a more balanced notice and notice system that requires a court order prior to the removal of content.
– The committee recommended the creation of an extended license that would force the education community to pay millions of dollars for publicly-available Internet materials. The government shelved this entire proposal, calling for broader consultation on the issue.
– The committee recommended reforms to photographers copyright, without protections for the privacy and economic interests of the general public. The government indicated that it plans to include an important exception for commissioned photographs for personal or domestic use.
– The committee cautioned against electronic delivery of interlibrary loans, suggesting that a new license might be warranted. The government committed to an amendment to allow libraries to directly deliver certain copyrighted materials electronically.
Add in the key provision in the package — an anti-circumvention approach that is tied to copyright infringement (and therefore subject to the fair dealing defence, though not a private copying defence), and you have got a genuine attempt at balance within the provisions on the table.

While the move away from the one-sided Heritage Committee recommendations is to be welcomed, no one should be under the illusion that this issue is done. As I conclude in the column, once the legislation is introduced, compromise and balance will be forced to withstand the voracious array of well-funded lobby interests who will undoubtedly seek the return to a one-sided slate of reforms. Ottawa may have presented its plan, but the copyright battle is far from over.

Update: The Ottawa Citizen version is available online.

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