A New Copyright Pledge

As Members of Parliament prepare to return to Ottawa, some have responded to the thousands of letters sent last month out of concern for a Canadian DMCA.  While the responses vary by party (many are posted on the Facebook group), all generally note their concern with copyright balance and a commitment to comment further once a bill is introduced.  I can certainly understand why an MP might be reluctant to commit to much more, yet there are core fair copyright principles that do not depend upon the introduction of a bill.  Tomorrow, I will post my fair copyright principles, however, today I want to outline a new copyright pledge (I posted an earlier pledge involving campaign funding and the copyright lobby during the 2006 national election).  I believe this pledge could and should be adopted by all MPs – regardless of party – without waiting for an actual bill.

The pledge is simple:

I will not introduce, support, or endorse any copyright bill that, either directly or indirectly, undermines or weakens the Copyright Act’s fair dealing provision.

Fair dealing, which the Supreme Court of Canada has described as a user right, covers uses such as research, private study, news reporting, and criticism.  I have argued that the provision should be expanded.  For the purposes of the pledge, I am only asking MPs to do no harm.  Fair dealing is a critically important part of the copyright balance that plays a crucial role for education and free speech and it is widely accepted internationally (indeed the parallel provision in the U.S. is far broader).  No Canadian MP or party should support or introduce legislation that would weaken it.  If you are looking to send a follow-up to Industry Minister Jim Prentice or to your local MP, then consider asking them one straight forward question – will they take the copyright pledge?

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