Canadian Labour Congress Considers Major Reversal on IP Policy

Reliable sources report that the Canadian Labour Congress is set to consider a policy resolution that would dramatically alter its approach on copyright and intellectual property policy.  The resolution will apparently be brought forward to the Congress Executive Council next Monday with the possibility of consideration by the full CLC Council immediately thereafter.  It should be noted that the CLC has traditionally recognized the need for a balanced approach and that support for ratification of the WIPO Internet treaties comes primarily from U.S. pressure. 

For example, consider the CLC's comments on IP policy within the context of the Security Prosperity Partnership with the United States and Mexico.  Following the Montebello meeting in 2007, the CLC said the following:


In what appears to be a war against copyright infringement, Leaders have committed multiple law-enforcement agencies at different levels of government to collaborate on this apparently critical threat to North American competitiveness.  The Action Strategy will depend upon the sharing of best practices from the private sector and “new innovative border enforcement techniques” to detect the trade in pirated and counterfeit goods within North America and arising from “third countries”. 

Once again, we must ask why this issue has been raised as the focus of this highly militarized discourse and concerted effort on the part of industry and government security forces.  The answer is that IPR protect business interests and the right of corporations to sell products.  The increasing reliance on security forces, however, is not going to protect freedom of speech or nourish the creative spirit in North American communities by committing public support to cultural industries, schools for the creative arts, educational institutions. Nor have Leaders redoubled their efforts to ensure freedom of expression. Rather, as if they hadn’t already been granted more than enough protection from NAFTA, the largest corporations who own copyrights, trade marks, patents and claim protection for trade secrets will be able to count on the full support of state security forces to protect and extend their already extensive private property rights. As a society, Canada would benefit from an open debate on whether or not to strengthen IPR protections, especially when it comes to issues of social concern.  For a society, it is not helpful for a debate over the production of knowledge wrapped in a discourse of criminality, piracy, theft and counterfeit as the NACC suggests. The issues of law-making and law enforcement should not be conflated in this way.

While some might quibble with some aspects of this statement, it is clear that the CLC recognizes the need for an open debate and the preservation of free expression.  Yet the CLC proposed resolution reportedly states the following:

WHEREAS, counterfeiting and copyright piracy continue to harm Canadian workers. Counterfeiting and piracy – also known as intellectual property (IP) theft – cost the Canadian economy an estimated 22 billion dollars each year;

WHEREAS, IP theft also exacts an extensive human toll. IP theft robs Canadian workers of jobs and wages, as income that could have been used to expand the workforce or pay higher salaries is siphoned off to pad the coffers of international organized crime

WHEREAS, counterfeiting also poses a grave threat to the health and safety of Canadian workers;

WHEREAS, since counterfeiters and copyright pirates don't pay taxes, governments at all levels are deprived of tax revenues our workers rely on for vital services;

WHEREAS, the evidence that Canadian workers are harmed by IP theft is powerful;

WHEREAS, this critical issue requires a far-reaching response involving legislative and regulatory reform, policy change, and allocation of proper resources to combat the problems. The Canadian government must be given the structure and resources to mount a sustained attack on this pervasive problem, both within Canada and internationally. The criminal and civil laws in Canada must provide adequate deterrence. And consumers must be educated that counterfeiting and piracy are not victimless, nuisance crimes, but instead strike at the heart of our long term economic security;

WHEREAS, as unions representing thousands of these workers, we urge the Canadian Government and all Members of Parliament and the Senate to work together to pass comprehensive legislation and enact the policy changes that would bolster the ability to address this growing threat;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, accordingly, we urge the enactment of broad legislative measures that can really make a difference. Any such measures should include:

Amending the Copyright Act consistent with international standards to (i) conform with the World Intellectual Property Organization’s “Internet” Treaties and ratify the Treaties; (ii) enact a strong legal framework governing the responsibility and liability of online service providers that ensures they play a role in preventing copyright infringement, including providing rightsholders with an expeditious and effective means to stop the widespread dissemination of infringing material;

This is a remarkable about-face for the CLC, which would moves from an open discussion approach to quoting with support the counterfeiting claims that have no evidentiary basis, calling for the ratification of the WIPO Internet treaties that is strongly opposed by consumer and education groups, and moving toward the enforcement-based approach that they have long criticized.  With only a few days left before this unbalanced resolution is considered, those concerned with the resolution should voice their views with the CLC.


  1. Sean Swayze says:

    Change of Management?
    I’m wondering has there been a recent change in the management of the CLC?
    If so, it could explain this sudden reversal.

  2. Dwight Williams says:

    A Good Question
    I’d like to see an answer to that myself.

  3. Corruption
    It looks like corporate corruption has even infected an organization that purports to speak for Canadian workers. It looks to me like we are well on our way to a fascist dictatorship.

  4. What A Bunch of Idiots
    I call bullshit on these so-called facts.

    I am personally getting tired of the shock doctrine tactics that have become an almost regular ritual with politicians and idiot organizations like the CLC.

    the only imminent threat to Canadians is this apparent all out rush to entrench the rights of copyright and IP holders above the rights guaranteed in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

    As a unionized worker I am continual embarrassed by just how uninformed union leaders in organizations like the CLC really are.

    And for once and for all can we PLEASE separate the discussion between the counterfeiting of products – which is dangerous – from these so-called imminent copyright threats.

  5. There you go again …
    … you’re all talk, Prof. You make a pious show of saying that intellectual property has value and should be protected but you’re the first to scream in rage when anyone urges action against piracy and counterfeiting. How do you sleep?

  6. This was likely bought forward by an affiliate of the CLC not the CLC itself.

    Make sure you email the CLC and say why this is a bad idea.

  7. Re: Change of Management
    No, there wasn’t a change in management. The leadership is elected, and the last election as a while ago

  8. stupid economic woes , make this retarded beyond belief
    um we read piraters of counterfeit stuff get busted so what exactly do we need fraking changed.
    Wasting time and money again are we ,wanting to drain the economy of some more hard earned dollars go home mpaa, riaa, CRIA

  9. Teamsters Canada (Rail)
    Sounds like they just got a money/influence pot from some lobby…they don’t represent me, I’ve never seen a CLC representative at a meeting

  10. Canadian Content
    What kind of content is being pirated? Hollywood movies? American TV shows? These are not CANCON. The year Canadian Content is being pirated at a loss of $22 billion is the year the USA becomes Canada Jr.

  11. corruption
    Unfortunately, with workers now able to organise themselves (see uk wildcat strikes) formal unions have become increasingly irrelevant, dinosaurs of a pre-digital age. They’re fighting to survive and are at the mercy of various groups looking for quick and dirty legitimacy/influence. Oh Dear.

  12. Engineer and Scientist
    This proposal is very anti-engineering; Canada is likely to end up imprisoning or fining those in society who ‘make things work’, ‘invent new stuff’, and ‘teach the next generation’.

    Actually, it will just increase the contract prices when someone (probably a government or a big business) wants to out-source ‘responsibility’ to a corporation or individual willing to take it on.

  13. Developer
    The very nature of IP is that it causes resources to be underutilized. The justification for this is that we do not have alternative social mechanisms to support creators of original works, so we must allow them to regulate the distribution of their works so they can compel people to pay. However, this is a poor system of affairs. We have the resources to support every artist that we support, and we do not have an intrinsic need to restrict the distribution of ideas and culture to offer this support.

    Canadians have dramatically increased access to ideas and culture because of the internet and the copying and distribution that occurs using this infrastructure. If effective enforcement measures were put into place and this were to stop, and the supposedly lost economic benefit were distributed directly to Canadians in the form of cash, it would not permit them to legally purchase access to even a fraction of what they had lost.

    This is a simple fact. Canadians would have reduced access to ideas and culture if effective enforcement were put into place, and the quality of life of every Canadian would suffer.

    My partner and I are pursuing a project that we hope will be a small stride in the right direction. We are building infrastructure that will allow artists to sell original, physical works of art and leverage the free advertising that liberal distribution of copies creates to increase the market for their original and commissioned works.

    We hope to create a growing pool of professional creators who greet the prospect of intellectual property laws failing with a shrug, because they are not relying on it.

    We are a month or two away from launch, but if anyone is interested in participating, check out

    We all need to recognize that the solution to all of this is to create alternative mechanisms to support our creative people. If we do this, we can ditch this inefficient system of fake property and everyone will have access to greater wealth and plenty.

  14. what we really need
    less talk more action.
    and how does a 50 year copyright benefit me in mu life time how doe sit benefit YOU.
    we pay taxes for that law , we pay and pay and pay.
    Me thinks hollywood needs a pay cut and we really should be moving that way to save us money.

    if actors whine too bad cave me didnt get paid, dancing around in the cave.
    Yes you get paid but its cause we are in effect paying you.
    When we have no money you get no money.
    When YOU overcharge us , we WILL PIRATE.

    And what of the poor whom regardless cannot afford to pay. YOU wish to sue them? I see. And three strikes laws are going ot be the death of someone and my own example wiht bell canada is perfect for what goes wrong on disconnects.

    We need stronger laws to prevent monopoliy power in corporate behaviour, we nbeed to take rights away form corporations that act badly in the world stage.

    and its all doable and hte end result will not only be a safer world but one were we all profit more in ht eend.

    Hollywood does not want this. They want technology to stay the same.
    Look at the anti computer and anti technology movies coming out and how dark the movies appear.

    No color and life. Of course not when you goal is control and creating havoc with those that would pay you some money.

  15. Piracy costs the Canadian economy a lot, yes of course, but it’s not like that money just disappears into some void, never to be seen again…

    …it’s right here in our wallets!

  16. Let them consider this resolution
    Individually as a race we are smart, collectively we are stupid. The copyright system is undergoing what economists call “creative destruction”. Nobody is listening to independent research on this, and because of this there will be laws put into place that will be enforceable. So what’s the problem. There will always be ways around any technical measures ISP’s put into place. This will just make this part essential in the near future. The only way to keep any version of the copyright system intact is to build it into the system, and networks, and allow innovation to occur. Right now everyone is focused on “compliance” which has over shadowed the problems that have arisen because of this with innovation (which is an essential part of industry). Not enough innovation is being done, because “compliance” is getting in the way.

    The copyright system will collapse, and the Canadian Labour Congress will be scratching it’s head as to why. LET IT HAPPEN! The old has to completely fail before the new and balanced approach rises. This needs to happen. Legislators have walnuts for brains,and only care about the next donation. You guys can’t really believe in a free society that excessive copyright policy will actually work especially in Canada. Look how big Fair Copyright for Canada is. I just feel bad for those caught in between this and invest in companies that still rely on the old system of copyright.

  17. Joe Sanders says:

    Developer (web), Artist
    This is such an asinine approach. This entire shift stinks of RIAA, MPAA involvement. Are we, as Canadians, going to allow the United States and Co. to develop policies for Canada? We already have enough b.s. tied to copyright as it is. CRIA gets a payment from every sale of blank media and certain other media to cover their so called loss of sales through piracy. They can’t have it both ways. I don’t know of a SINGLE recording artist in Canada that would support such nonsense.

    What about protecting The Public Domain? These fat cats are just interested in their next pay day. And they think because they have out dated business models that WE are the ones that need to change OUR policies? Those idiots need to wake up. It’s about time they just died (read: go out of business) and were replaced with competent businesses who know how to identify with the market and their customer. That is the nature of capitalism. You evolve or you die. And these fat, brain dead, non-innovative hacks have been sucking on the public teet for too long. Their time is coming to an end.

    It seems more and more of our politicians are being bought up by special interests. They are NOT serving the interests of Canadians. Most Canadians I know, including myself, know how to use the Internet as a marketing tool to sell. It is simply because of the pressure of the United States and their whining, sniveling media industry that we are even having this discussion. Our politicians in Ottawa need to seriously grow a pair and stand up and say NO, on behalf of all Canadians. We are not your little peons. We are not going to blindly adopt failed policies (ie. DMCA) in order to benefit THEIR industries.

    Once again, we are being shown that the larger these companies become, the more their influence ties into government. They have the means to buy our politicians, and we should all be very worried about that. These failing business models are the reason all these companies are getting bailed out. Because they are stupid, have failed to adapt and evolve. They are lazy, and it is about damned time they became extinct. The money will not disappear, it will be redistributed among smaller companies and those who KNOW how to take care of their customers.

    If we cow tow to these companies and their asinine policies we will certainly come to regret it. Mark my words.

  18. “There you go again …
    … you’re all talk, Prof. You make a pious show of saying that intellectual property has value and should be protected but you’re the first to scream in rage when anyone urges action against piracy and counterfeiting. How do you sleep?”

    It is perfectly logical to defend IP as a general principle and yet find that the current proposed changes to the Copyright Act to be a terrible solution to the problem.

    For example, I am strongly against murder. If someone proposed that we jail everyone over 12 in order to eliminate murder, I would be against that solution, however, because it is ill thought out and causes more issues than it fixes.

  19. Developer
    Misinterpreting Copyright by Richard Stallman