Olympic Marks Bill Amended to Protect Bloggers and Parody

The Industry Committee completed its short review of Bill C-47 this morning by approving several amendments to the bill.  These notably include amending the exceptions provision (which previously only referred to the use of the Olympic marks for criticism or in the publication or broadcast of a news report) in two important ways.  First, parody was added to the list, so that the use of the Olympic marks for parody purposes falls outside the Act.  Second, the bill now specifically refers to electronic media as enjoying the same exception as other forms of media. 

The importance of these amendments could extend far beyond this particular bill.  In the case of the parody exception, it arguably highlights a clear shortcoming in current Canadian law (parody is missing from the Copyright Act as well) – one that ought to be addressed in any future intellectual property reform package.  Moreover, providing specific protection for electronic media in this bill may open the door to similar media equality in other legal areas.

While the Committee added several other amendments (including a sunset clause for Schedule 3, which contains many generic words), the other notable occurrence was the submission of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada, a leading Canadian IP organization, and its Past-President Cynthia Rowden.  IPIC did the profession proud – as the only neutral, non-governmental witness to appear before the committee, it rightly criticized the bill for providing exceptional rights to one specific group. 

Moreover, it proposed a sensible middle ground on the irreparable harm issue, by suggesting that the test should not be abandoned, but rather that the bill could provide that activities that are shown to purport an unlawful association with the Games to be deemed as irreparable harm. Unfortunately, the Committee rejected IPIC's advice.  In fact, Colin Carrie, the Conservative MP who yesterday raised the prospect of criminalizing ambush marketing, today asked IPIC to explain how it could support anti-counterfeiting laws but argue that C-47 goes too far.  Rowden rightly responded that this bill deals with an issue that has nothing to do with counterfeiting, a point apparently lost on at least one member of the committee.

Update: The Vancouver Sun covers the committee hearings with a quote from Liberal MP Hedy Fry that the bill "contains enough checks and balances." 

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