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?


  1. Michel Donais says:

    Overly broad?
    By reading the pledge, I am left with the impression it is overly broad, and I would personally be very suspicious of such a text. It’s like saying I would do no harm to other fellow human beings; while I support that in theory, in practice, everything we are doing these days can harm someone indirectly or directly.

    I would consider the pledge with a context, but then it would hinder the goal, or leave loopholes. Hopefully, MPs sufficiently understand this topic, and will be able to understand the implications, and vow to it in full comprehension of the situation.

  2. John Bowman says:

    Fair dealing
    Speaking of fair dealing, here’s the piece I wrote for based on the interview we did:

    [ link ]

  3. And I am very suspicious of what seems like pressure in this blog to shill for the Conservatives. I don’t care if they abolish copyright, I still don’t want Stephen Harper as PM and I can’t believe that most of the people posting here want that either!

  4. this is naive – politicians will want to (in fact should!) make sure they understand the issues before signing anything like this. not the same as pledging to world peace.

  5. It would be nice to think that politicians would want to understand the issues before “introducing, supporting or endorsing” a bill, too…

  6. Wassim Garzouzi says:

    Have any MPs expressed support?

  7. Why don\’t you ask MP\’s to wear a big sign that reads, \”I am a moron\” while they sign the pledge? No, wait – you should wear a T-shirt that reads \”I\’m with stupid\” and have your picture taken with every MP when they sign it. Boy are you going to be busy!

  8. Copyright is the issue, not Harper
    To the unnamed person on above who thinks that there is pressure on this blog to shill for the Conservatives…

    You are wrong. There is no pressure to shill for anyone. This isn’t about getting anyone elected or thrown out. This is about getting the ISSUE of copyright understood, discussed and in the public eye. Some of us vote Conservative, some of us vote Liberal, some of us vote NDP and some of us vote for none of the above. What we SHARE is a desire for a copyright law that respects fair dealing, device shifting, etc. etc.

    If you want someone else as Prime Minister that’s fine, but DO NOT try to hijack this forum for that. This isn’t the place.

  9. Sorry Issachar, but I don\’t agree. There have been several suggestions that the Industry Minister should be made aware of the electoral implications of his decision. If this isn\’t a party issue then the focus should be only on the merits, not the politics.

  10. Copyright is the issue, not Harper
    Again to the unnamed person above, you said:

    “I don’t care if they abolish copyright, I still don’t want Stephen Harper as PM”

    Taking that statement at it’s face value, you seem to be very clearly saying that *whatever* the Conservatives do on copyright you don’t want them re-elected. That’s fine, but a blog on copyright isn’t the place to discuss that.

    Making the Conservatives aware of the electoral implications of what they do isn’t hijacking the blog because you’re making the aware of the electoral implications of the ISSUE. Saying you want them out no matter what they do on copyright, (even if they enact a law meets all of Mr. Geist’s suggestions), is a hijack.

  11. The pledge does one thing very well: it establishes rhetorically the fair dealing principle as one with inherent and shared legitimicy. It also (tries to) secure the terms upon which the issue will(could) be frame, and it does so with the main positive argument (pro user/owner rights balance, which is “fair dealing”) being advanced. The ‘no concession’ serves in effect to attract attention to the quality of the argument (fair dealing), which greatly enhances the chance of a follow-up by a passer-by. Those who would be displeased right away by the pledge are the ones that would detect right of the bat that it is (heresthetically at least), “against” their favored party/ideology (in this case, the conservatives). It is quite natural that there should be a political (i.e. rhetorical/heresthetical) battle over copyright reform, even in this blog. Hence, probably, the cries about naïveté or Whingeypoo’s impolite baubble. In order to create an issue (in a way that could possibly favor the preferences of the creator), it’s got (to garner useful mobilisation) to have an identified dimensionnal conflict which would be strategic. In the end, it’s success will follow the logic of mobilisation, but one could mobilise around a non-politically useful dimension, and thus fail in the end. I hope a coalition can be achieve, and if it is, it will be around ‘fair use’.