As Copyright Watch recently chronicled, local Chambers of Commerce have been singing from the same songbook as Industry Minister Jim Prentice in letters to the editor on Bill C-61. This is consistent with the national Chamber, which earlier this year formed a new lobby group to push for copyright reform and issued a press release supporting the introduction of the copyright bill – complete with local quotes – within 90 minutes of the tabling of the bill.
Notwithstanding these lobbying efforts, a crack in the coalition has emerged. At least one chamber of commerce has decided that it wants to look at the bill with an eye to the impact on small and medium sized businesses. The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce had adopted a resolution that it is hoping to get the Ontario and Canadian Chambers of Commerce to adopt seeking studies on the impact that IP legislation would have on SMEs. The concern is that SMEs would bear the burden of enforcement directed at businesses. The Hamilton chamber argues:
- The estimates of piracy used in support of the Canadian and Ontario policies are unsupported by verifiable Canadian data;
- Most small businesses are not aware of IP issues and would likely be at a disadvantage if action were ever taken against them on any alleged IP infringement;
- Small businesses would have a disproportionate increase in expenses in complying with the costs that the policies would create;
- In Canada, many large owners of IP have ‘over-reached’ the protection that IP has given them to the detriment of small businesses;
- The proposed change in laws does nothing to favour Canadian businesses;
- Many IP users are funded by tax dollars (i.e. education, libraries, archives) and an increase in enforcement is likely to increase their costs, which will, in turn, lead to higher taxes which disproportionately affects small business.
The Hamilton Chamber expands on each of these concerns and issues five recommendations:
- Verify the quantum of unlawful copying in Canada through the independent collection of statistics based on facts arising in Canada;
- The impacts and benefits that any changes will have on all businesses in Canada including small businesses;
- The financial and administrative burden that will be created for businesses – and especially small businesses – to ensure that they can successfully and inexpensively defend unsupported allegations of infringement;
- A consideration of how IP enforcement regimes can – within international and national limits – favour and encourage Canadian businesses;
- A consideration of how IP enforcement regimes will affect the costs of educational, archival and library uses of IP in Canada and how those costs paid by public funds can be reduced.
Sources indicate that the the Hamilton Chamber will present this resolution for debate in the fall by the full Chamber movement at its annual general meeting.