Prentice’s Failure to Communicate

Industry Minister Jim Prentice paid a visit to the University of Calgary on Friday to give a lecture at the law school on policy making.  In the question and answer period that followed, the majority of questions focused on copyright (Part One, Part Two) [update: The Distant  Librarian has posted a video of the full talk and Q&A period].  Prentice's responses provide five important insights:

First, despite the enormous opposition to a Canadian DMCA, Prentice continues to rely on a communication strategy based on tired claims about the WIPO Internet treaties and how copyright is a "framework" law in Canada.  A Canadian DMCA will face opposition from consumer groups, education groups, creator groups, and business groups.  Prentice is going to have come up with a much better communication strategy to justify a one-sided copyright law.

Second, Prentice will respond to concerns about the lack of consultation by claiming that there has been extensive consultation, pointing to the 2001 public consultation and several Parliamentary committee reports.  This claim does not withstand even mild scrutiny.  The 2001 consultation is seven years old – a lifetime ago from an Internet perspective.  Indeed, many of today's younger, new voters were only 11 years old at the time of that consultation (they were only six years old when the WIPO Treaties were concluded).  As for the committee reports, to my knowledge the Industry Committee has never held a hearing focused exclusively on the WIPO Internet treaties, though it has cited the issue in a pair of reports.  The Canadian Heritage Committee did devote one day to exclusively consider the WIPO Internet treaties in March 2004.  The sole witness?  Canadian Recording Industry Association General Counsel Richard Pfohl (WIPO was also part of the discussion in a further hearing in April 2004).

Third, Prentice clearly intends to ignore the Conservative government's commitment to hold a House of Commons debate on the WIPO Internet treaties before introducing copyright legislation. Prentice now claims that there are three steps involved – signing a treaty, changing domestic law, and then ratification.  He argues that the Conservative commitment will be met by holding the debate at step three.  This is a complete re-write of the policy that his cabinet colleague, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, announced two weeks ago.  That policy was clear that the House of Commons debate comes before the introduction of new legislation.  In fact, it speaks of delaying legislation for 21 sitting days and points with approval to the UK and Australia where the treaty debate unquestionably comes before the changes to domestic law. 

Fourth, when confronted with the concerns of many groups about the absence of their issue from the new bill, Prentice will claim that he can't do it all in one bill and that there is a need for "ongoing dialogue."  This will not be good enough – the Industry Minister cannot simply say that the concerns of education, the concerns of consumers, the concerns of creators, the concerns of the Privacy Commissioner, and the concerns of business should take a back seat to the concerns of the U.S. government.

Fifth, in addressing questions posed by students, professors, and librarians (each are questioners in the video), he characterizes fair dealing as the "consumer side" of copyright policy that is a "challenging area that requires discussion."  Sorry Mr. Minister – fair dealing is a core concern for students, professors, and librarians not because of their consumer property rights but because this issue goes to the heart of Canadian education and research.  If you do not understand that, you do not understand the concerns with Canadian copyright reform.  Thousands of Canadian students are not looking further discussion – they're looking for actual support in the legislation.  If it's not there, Prentice, Prime Minister Harper, and the Conservative Copyright MPs are likely to face more than just polite questions from many concerned constituents.


  1. Who is this guy working for?
    Maby if Canadians got together and took up a collection we could get him to work for us.

  2. Dwight Williams says:

    Those of us participating in such fundraising would likely be jointly charged with some sort of criminal conspiracy crimes.

  3. Posted to Didd
    [ link ]

  4. Make that *Digg*

  5. I had to listen to his “3-step ratification process” a second time to make sure that he said what I thought he said. It makes no sense.

    1) Government signs international treaty.
    2) Government puts forward bill in House to change domestic laws and bring them in line with treaty obligations.
    3) Government puts treaty forward for debate.

    So, if (3) fails, the government would have to go back and revert the changes to Canada’s domestic laws, then pull out of the international treaty? After going to all the trouble of steps (1) and (2)? Sounds like Prentice either doesn’t understand his own government’s policy (doubtful – he seems like a smart enough guy), or he’s deliberately interpreting it incorrectly so that he doesn’t have to follow its guidelines.

  6. The art of lie
    He is a politician. His job is to lie in order to please his boss. “Americans are our friends” said Harper during his campaign. Unfortunately the minority of Canadians that went to vote voted for him. No matter that WIPO treaty is considered right now outdated by most of the countries in the world sinse WIPO treaty is sponsored by USA it MUST be put in place.

  7. Dwight Williams says:

    Point of Historical Fact
    As I recall, 64 % of those who actually voted, voted for everyone *but* the New Conservatives.

    There’s a solid historical reason, therefore, why the Harper government’s referred to as a “minority” government. Whether they like it or not.

  8. I don’t understand how he can say that consumer rights “need discussion” while at the same time saying that discussion isn’t necessary for the law. He seems to be saying that the discussion part should happen after the law is in place.

    Isn’t that extremely inefficient lawmaking? Why exactly can’t discussion be part of the creation of law that we all have to live by, so we don’t have to go back and fix broken law (exactly as the Americans now have to do)?

  9. R. Bassett Jr. says:

    This Conservative government does not believe in the processes upon which this nation was founded, such as proper use of the House of Commons. Just watch CPAC every day for a week and you’ll see – they hide information that should be shared, they rarely actually answer direct questions with apropriate answers, and they shrug off issues of their own accountability, just like the Liberals used to do.

    Did you know that the Minister of Finance recently paid $120,000 for a speach? Did you also know that this contract was not tendered and was simply handed to a friend of the Minister, which is viloation of policy? Did you know that when a Liberal MP did the same thing a while back, that MP was turfed? Did you know that the Conservatives stance on this violation of policy is, “We feel we got good value for the dollar”? That’s right, six times my annual income for a single (piss poor) speach is good value for the dollar! The Conservatives aren’t even willing to hold themselves accountable for their mistakes, even though they campaigned on “We’ll clean up government”. Sorry, but their party is no different than the Liberals (funny enough, the Minister in question used to be a Liberal).

    It’s time for change. We should give the NDP a chance for once and see where it goes…

  10. This is about Copyright not the Conserva
    To R. Bassett Jr.

    Can we please confine ourselves to the issue at hand? That being the issue of Copyright? Generalizing this issue to make it about whether or not the Conservatives make a good government will only serve to alienate people who support the Conservatives but who might well press their Conservative MP’s to change Mr. Prentice’s legislation.

    That said, if you’re not going to provide a source to your claim about the Minister of Finance violating the policy on a payment for a speech you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t take your claim seriously. This is the internet. It’s very easy to provide a link to a source that we can all read. To fail to do so either implies laziness or an inability to find a source that confirms your statement.

  11. R. Bassett Jr. says:

    I watched it first hand, live, during Question Period on CPAC last week. However, because Issachar is too lazy to type “$120,000 speech finance minister Canada” into Google, I’ll provide some links for reference…

    [ link ]

    [ link ]

    [ link ]

    [ link ]

    “For copies of House proceedings (including Question Period) and House committees, please contact House of Commons Broadcasting directly at (613) 995-1318.”

    As for sticking to the issue at hand, well if Jim Prentice remains in his current position then it is perfectly acceptable to bring down the government before Jim Prentice is able to pass his legislation that does not represent the desires nor the best interest of Canadians. Pointing out other matters of governance only helps less informed Canadians gain a more well rounded view of why taking down the government should be considered to avoid having a DMCA bill passed without further public input and without due process in the House of Commons.

  12. It is of course possible to consult but not be persuaded. And sorry, while this issue is obviously important to many and maybe even a majority of people, it is not the most important issue facing the government. I’d love to see them fall, but perhaps over something that matters, like the budget, Canadian troops in Afghanistan. Yes copyright matters, but Canada is not going to come to a halt if there is s DCMA-type law here.

  13. What\’s wrong with the current fair dealing law? The Supreme Court interpreted it pretty widely. It doesn\’t apply to education, of course. Is that the problem? If it is, then I can see why the print and music publishers are concerned, because extending fair dealing to education is obviously intended to substitute free for paid access.

  14. What’s wrong is that the USA doesn’t like it, so it must be changed. Harper and his Conservatives are little more than USA-wannabes that are going to take Canada 50 years back in the small progresses we’ve made in copyright and drug law. We need to move FURTHER from the US methods for dealing with things if we’re ever going to get anywhere in the world.

  15. Thank you for links
    Thank you for the links R. Bassett Jr. I’ll take a look at them now, but there’s no need to be rude. If you’re going to make a claim, back it up. It’s not like it’s hard to do and frankly there’s a LOT of bogus claims made on boards like these. (Yours excluded apparently).

    Anyway, back to the whole “partisan” issue, we need to keep in mind that the legislation hasn’t been introduced yet. So it’s still possible for the Conservatives to introduce a good copyright bill and sidestep the whole issue. Of course in that scenario, they’d probably try to claim that it was really what they intended all along but does that really matter?

    And bringing down the government? Well the poster right after you covered that one…

  16. What’s wrong with current law
    What’s wrong with our current law is that it really is seriously out of date. Scott’s little anti-American sandlot aside, there really are holes in our current law in that in doesn’t deal with fair dealing, time shifting, device shifting and all that. Mr. Geist says it FAR better than I do, and I do believe that he’s said we need a good copyright law, not that we should stick with the current one.

  17. What he said, Issachar, is that we need “flexible” fair dealing. This – and I’m open to correction – is (a) what we already have but more important (b) is code for extending fair dealing to education, so that universities and students don’t haver to pay copyright fees for copying textbooks.

  18. Considering Jim Prentice had been corrupted by American lobbyist influence, it’s time we should propose criminal penalties for the lobbyists and politicians who try to undermine the democratic system.

  19. R. Bassett Jr. says: “This Conservative government does not believe in the processes upon which this nation was founded”

    Do you realize that George W. Bush went to war on his own? He, the president of Canada– err the United States declared war and no one in that country stopped him even though what he did was illegal? The Unitied States congress (from what I’ve heard and understand) is the only group that can actually officially declare war. It’s apparently a part of their constitution so as not to have a power-hungry, dictator as their leader– oops their laws failed them.

    And yet here comes lap-dog “Americans are our friends” Harper.. His government is emulating George W. Bush– “We don’t have to answer to our citizens”, “We can pass any laws we want, ignore any law we want, do whatever the hell we want because we control everything!” This includes ignoring promises they made about creating better government– well wait, unless you mean better government for power-hungry fascist politicians and the U.S. government who wants to play puppetmaster.. thanks Harper.