The New Copyright Debate

In reflecting upon a remarkable week – the Canadian DMCA delayed until 2008, 15,000 new members of the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook Group as the total passes 25,000, the Calgary meeting with Industry Jim Prentice, and the avalanche of blog postings and media coverage on Canadian copyright – it strikes me that two big issues emerge.  One is the power of social media to galvanize grassroots advocacy, an issue addressed by Mathew Ingram in the Globe, Dierdre McMurdy in a Sympatico MSN piece, and in my forthcoming Toronto Star/Ottawa Citizen column.  It's an enormously important story since it may foreshadow a dramatic change in how citizens speak out and policy gets made.

The other big issue is that the debate around Canadian copyright has been altered from one focused exclusively on creator rights and "piracy", to one that includes (and this week focused on) user rights and consumer property.  That change is at the heart of the thousands of letters and phone calls from Canadians who come from across the country and across the political spectrum.  It is also evident in the media coverage of this issue.  There was a time – not that long ago – that a group like CRIA could put out a press release criticizing the government's decision to delay copyright legislation and could expect the media to cover the release as if it were the last word on the subject.  No longer. 

The broadcast coverage of this issue has shifted toward covering both angles with a growing emphasis on consumer concerns.  This comes through in CBC Search Engine's groundbreaking coverage of the copyright issue and in an interview I did yesterday with the Business News Network.  The print coverage features similar balance.  The CBC balanced an ACTRA release criticizing the delay with references to the opposite view of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition. Ivor Tossell's exceptional article in the Globe and Mail concludes by noting that "copyright law matters. We're lucky that, when the time came, the ground was so well prepared for the revolt that followed." The National Post coverage offers similar sentiments, concluding "with Mr. Prentice already siding with consumers by setting aside spectrum space for new wireless phone entrants that is hoped to increase competition, one would hope he would again side with Canadians and leave those poor single mothers and pensioners alone."  Last week I wrote that fair copyright has found its voice in Canada.  This week it is apparent that that voice has helped generate a new copyright debate in Canada.

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