On the heels of the recent emergence of the CMCC, Canada's privacy community is today speaking out on its concerns with the prospect of copyright reform that provides legal protections for digital rights management but fails to account for the impact on personal privacy. Dozens of groups and individuals, including civil liberties organizations, library and education associations, and prominent privacy leaders such as former Privacy Commissioner Bruce Phillips (I have also lent my name to the letter) have sent a public letter to Ministers Bernier and Oda calling on the government to ensure that privacy factors in the copyright reform process.
- any proposed copyright reforms will prioritize privacy protection by including a full privacy consultation and a full privacy impact assessment with the introduction of any copyright reform bill;
- any proposed anti-circumvention provisions will create no negative privacy impact; and
- any proposed copyright reforms will include pro-active privacy protections that, for example, enshrine the rights of Canadians to access and enjoy copyright works anonymously and in private.
Notably, several of Canada's privacy commissioners have lent their support to the open letter. Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has issued a public letter to the Ministers in which she expresses "concerns about the pervasive threat of surveillance that these new technologies represent" and welcomes the opportunity to meet with the government before a copyright bill is introduced and to appear before the relevant Parliamentary Committee during hearings on a bill. Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian, who identified privacy concerns associated with DRM in a 2002 report, has written to the Industry, Canadian Heritage, and Finance Ministers to support the letter and request that "any proposed copyright reform must prioritize privacy by including a broad privacy consultation and a detailed privacy impact assessment, in conjunction with the introduction of any copyright reform bill." British Columbia Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis has also jumped into the fray, with a letter stating that it is "critically important that any copyright reforms contain privacy protections in relation to DRM."
These letters mark an important tipping point in the copyright reform debate as the list of so-called copyright stakeholders must now be expanded to include the privacy community. Commissioners Stoddart, Cavoukian, and Loukidelis have long been outspoken on privacy issues, leading to major legislative changes on issues such as the Patriot Act and Canadian privacy. By speaking out on copyright, they are sending a clear message that the government must take privacy concerns into account (something Bill C-60 failed to do) or risk facing strong opposition from dozens of groups and privacy leaders.