The Sad Reality of Copyright Policy in Canada

As I noted yesterday, I have spent considerable time writing and speaking on balanced copyright, including pulling together a book which features 19 professors from across Canada speaking out on the need for the public interest in copyright policy (the book is titled In the Public Interest and is available for purchase or as a free download under a Creative Commons Canada license).

Yet the revelations of recent days (Campaign Contributions, Tipping Point, That's What Friends Are For) suggest that we are not in a balanced debate searching for the policies that are best for all Canadians. Sam Bulte accepts thousands of dollars in contributions from the stronger copyright law lobby and brazenly holds a fundraiser for more money days before the election.  The funders justify their contributions by noting that they needed to avoid the annual financing cap and that they balance the process by funding MPs from both parties.

Indeed this last point requires further discussion as the most striking revelation in the Hollywood Reporter article is that the "U.S. interests" (as they are appropriately described in the article) have hedged their bets by also funding Conservative Bev Oda (the Canadian Heritage critic) and James Rajotte.  The Oda funding is noteworthy because it suggests that the leading candidates for the Minister of Canadian Heritage position from both the Liberals and Conservatives have accepted copyright lobby campaign contributions.

In fact, notwithstanding the Conservatives' claims of accountability, new research indicates that Oda is no stranger to funding support.  According to her 2004 riding association data, she accepted thousands of dollars in contributions from the broadcast lobby.  Corporate supporters included Alliance Atlantis, Astral Media, Canwest, and CHUM.  Oda also attracted a "who's who" of the broadcast community, including Edward Rogers, Leonard Asper, John Cassaday, Douglas Bassett, Andre Bureau, Phil Lind, Gary Slaight, Jay Switzer, Tony Viner, and Glenn O'Farrell, who each ponied up $250 a person at a May 2004 fundraiser. That event presumably went so well that another fundraiser was held for Oda in May 2005 in Toronto.  It was sponsored by Glenn O'Farrell (Canadian Broadcaster Association), Phil Lind (Rogers), and John Cassaday (Corus). We will have to wait for the 2005 annual return to learn about the financial success of that event.

While the broadcaster copyright concerns may differ from the entertainment industry interests, the problem is the same – Canadian copyright policy has degenerated into a funding battle between large corporate interests (whether foreign or Canadian) with little regard for the interests of the actual artists, creators, users, and the general public.  I may be naive, but this is not supposed to happen in Canada.  We can do better – see the next posting titled Cleaning Up Copyright for how.


  1. Nora von Gerichten says:

    Lobbying against Canadians
    Our Lobbyist Registration is one of the biggest jokes that corporations hide behind. Talking to an RCMP officer on the street about their smoking policy is considered lobbying. Penalty for not being a registered lobbyist can result in fines and/or jail time.

    Glenn O’Farrell is not listed in the Lobbyist Registration database as lobbying Oda.

    Edward Rogers, Leonard Asper, John Cassaday, Douglas Bassett, Gary Slaight, Phil Lind, Toney Viner, and John are not registered as a lobbyist. Why are there no criminal charges being laid?

    Okay so they “ponied up” or sponsered a fundraiser. How is that not lobbying?

    Why the double standards? Some must register (like university professors who apply for or assist students in applying for grants and contributions) yet others selling out citizens get the run of the land?

  2. Keith MacDonald says:

    Election funding rules
    I know it’s outside your usual area of expertise but it would be interesting to have a quick primer on the Election rules governing candidate funding. For that matter, what are the rules governing money going to MPs , once elected?

    Keep up the good work Mr. G.