Prentice’s DMCA Indecision

The Globe and Mail reports this morning that the introduction of the Canadian DMCA has now been delayed until next week, though some MPs apparently believe that today is still the day.  While the indecision may be attributable to any number of things (the GM layoff announcement, the current pressure on the government arising from the Bernier affair, or the public criticism of a Canadian DMCA and ACTA), the real source of the problem is that Prentice has treated the copyright file primarily as a communications issue rather than as a policy one.  From the moment of his appointment as the Minister of Industry, his instructions from the Prime Minister have been clear – introduce a copyright bill and make sure that the U.S. is happy with it.  With that, the fear is that the concerns of many Canadian stakeholders have taken a backseat to satisfying the demands of the PMO and the USA.

Over the past two weeks, the plans for introducing the bill have continuously changed.  Sources say the initial plan was to get it out immediately after the Victoria Day weekend, press for the completion of second reading before the summer break, and then conduct summer hearings.  Now it may be just to get it out, or to wait until next week and do a dump and dash – introduce the Canadian DMCA and make a quick exit to Asia for the OECD meeting. 

I would argue that much of this could have been solved with greater transparency and consultation.  On the transparency side, Prentice has stuck to his line about working with the Minister of Canadian Heritage on a balanced bill, yet the Globe quotes the recording industry as having been promised that the bill will be tabled before the House of Commons breaks for the summer.  In other words, Prentice has been telling the public one thing and the copyright lobby something else. 

The absence of a real consultation is obviously the other big source of trouble.  While the article quotes an unnamed lobbyist as saying that copyright is too difficult for a minority government, I've argued that there is a consensus position that would leave many reasonably satisfied.  By excluding Canadians from this process, Prentice has ensured that copyright is his most polarizing issue and led to the mixed messages of the past number of months.  The way forward is clear – shelve the current bill and open up the process with a real consultation.

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