Montreal Copyright Town Hall: Summary Review

The first of two town hall meetings as part of the copyright consultation was held in Montreal this afternoon.  The discussion featured a wide range of views with several music representatives calling for tougher laws and other participants voicing support for greater flexibility.  In many ways, the town hall demonstrated that the Quebec perspective on copyright reform is very similar to the rest of the country.

Video of the town hall has already been posted online by a third party.  There was also active live tweeting under the #copycon tag.  Below is a summary from University of Ottawa student Frances Munn.
Montreal Town Hall
Thursday, July 30, 2009

Format: Participants were given around three minutes to make their points. Speakers were encouraged to engage with each other and raise counter points. Participants who were watching online were also able to submit comments. Language was bilingual with live translation.

Overall: Speakers expressed a broad range of viewpoints and opinions. Most industry leaders and representatives of musicians and artists were strongly in favour of copyright protection. Some industries, however, like the Songwriters Association favoured legalizing file-sharing and instituting a monthly levy to compensate artists. A number of student organizations argued for research and education exemptions. Other citizens brought up the legitimate need for circumvention devices and an expansion for fair dealing. One participant urged the government to abolish copyright altogether.


  • A representative of the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education pointed out that the learning environment is no longer confined to a “closed classroom.” She argued that students who do not sit in classrooms, such as students who are homeschooled or students in prisons or hospitals, should have the same access to materials as people who learn in school.
  • An online participant from Toronto argued that accessing free online materials was theft. Further, without adequate compensation for creators, Canada would lose investment and IP.
  • A participant pointed out that there was no judicial oversight for takedown notices.
  • Another participant argued that authors and actors perform a public service by contributing to culture and they deserve to be paid a living wage.
  • An online participant argued that there was a growing consensus that bans on circumvention devices should only apply to infringing activities.
  • Another participant pointed out that the government is attempting to create a law that is technologically neutral, but that today’s technology is very different and that the music industry has been hardest hit. Further, the participant argued that people who demand “free access” are confusing access to information (e.g. travel information) with access to a market for entertainment goods.
  • A Concordia librarian pushed for an open definition for copyright and fair use as well as an end to Crown Copyright.
  • A representative for the Songwriters Association of Canada advocated a system where ISPs charge a low service fee for file-sharing on. The system would be opt in or opt out with people acting on their honour. They argued consumers would decide it is worth the extra money to have clean files and avoid unpleasant ads currently found on file-sharing sites.
  • A student argued that it is impossible to stop downloading without sacrificing freedoms and further argued that people who download music are also more likely to buy it. He suggested instituting a system of monthly levies.
  • The VP External of the McGill Graduate Student Society addressed the need for relaxed regulations and open access for research. They also argued for “new models” because of the impossibility of stopping P2P. 
  • An online participant from Toronto in the music business argued that copyright laws are needed to protect the jobs of the “regular working person” who supports artists.
  • A software engineer argued that copying and sharing a song is not “theft” like stealing a TV set because sharing a song does not mean taking an item from somebody else nor does it violate their privacy. Further, he urged the Minister against “blindly” following in the footsteps of the American DMCA and criminalizing everyone who uses P2P.
  • A representative of Astral media said that under the current system, radio broadcasters like Astral have to make as many as eleven payments to different groups if they want to use a song on a multi-platform environment. The representative recommended a system where broadcasters only have to make one payment for content.
  • A participant introduced himself on the side of anti-copyright.  He pointed to a case in the United States where a woman is being sued millions of dollars for eight songs. He argued against importing this system to Canada where all young people would suddenly become criminals. He also argued that sites that point to illegal content, such as Pirate Bay, should not be in itself illegal because they perform a similar function as Google. 
  • A singer/songwriter argued that downloading is now a new form of access, but that it has to be managed.
  • A representative of Canadian Film Composers argued that they make their income off copyright and are not middle-class “fat cats.” He argued that the Internet is a “game changer” that has altered people’s habits, and that the challenge is to find a way to legalize what people are now doing naturally. He pointed to an example at McGill where the administration attempted to institute bandwidth caps to save money, and students said they were willing to pay extra fees to have more bandwidth. In other words, people are willing to pay money for access.
  • A representative of students at University of Montreal argued that students needed exemptions for research and education.
  • A participant argued against enacting a law that criminalizes a behaviour that is impossible to stop. Further, the speaker said that regulating the Internet hinders the “freedom” of the Internet and that the government should support a free market system.
  • A content creator urged the government not to protect dying business models with outdated monetization strategies.
  • A representative of a Quebec student organization urged a balance, arguing that it was essential that students have access but that students also needed protection for their own content.
  • A software professional/consumer pointed out that restrictive locks are not always used to protect commercial interests. For instance, DVDs are often locked so that they can only work in one region.
  • Daniel Drapeau, President of the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network and an IP lawyer, pointed out that it was difficult for him to pursue claims under the current Copyright Act. He urged the government to adopt a system of notice-and-takedown.
  • An independent writer argued that creators should be distinguished from distributers and producers under the Copyright Act because commercial endeavours do not need the same protections that creators need.  For instance, she said that copyright creators need a long copyright term to make a livelihood, but commercial interests do not need more than 20 years.
  • A participant addressed anti-circumvention, arguing that some DRM technology prevents consumers from exercising their rights. For instance, some DRM programs stop games from working if it detects two DVD burners on the computer because it assumes the user is a hacker.
  • A participant representing photographers addressed one of the popular copyright “myths.” He argued that while you can do what you want with a physical object like a TV set, you cannot copy it. He went on to argue that young people asking for free copyright will want to profit off their own works in 10 or 20 years.
  • A representative of the Union des consommateurs argued against restricting the public domain and pointed to an innovative judgment in Spain where a judge said that punishing downloading meant punishing an accepted practice.
  • The VP External of the Concordia Student Union made three points. First, he asked for an open ended definition of “fair dealing.” Secondly, he wanted an updated education provision to reflect digitization so that copyright protection would not, for example, hinder online courses. Thirdly, he asked for exemptions for academic institutions.
  • A physics teacher at John Abbott College opposed DMCA takedown notices because they lack judicial overview and can be abused to limit free speech. He was also worried about privacy infringements when ISPs are charged with looking at what people are doing. He called it a “chilling prospect” if it is done without a court order.
  • A retired historian pointed out that any changes made to copyright would hurt the disadvantaged. He argued that the Act would be used to protect the rich rather than “humanity” as a whole.


  1. Robin Millette says:

    See also the #copycon tag at identica:

    The ogg theora video version of the recording: (377 MiB – wmv is 238 MiB)

    The ogg speex audio version: (14 MiB)

  2. Locked DVDs == Commercial interests
    “A software professional/consumer pointed out that restrictive locks are not always used to protect commercial interests. For instance, DVDs are often locked so that they can only work in one region.”

    This is what it is for. Artificial market segmentation, clear commercial interests.

  3. It’s good to see students involved in this
    After all, we are tired of being ripped off on overpriced books and secret agreements between professors and publishers. This “business model” definitely has to go.

  4. DVD region
    The DVD region scheme is meant to protect commercial interests. Nothing else. So much that there have even been lawsuit (or attempts) for reseller importing “Region 1” (North America) to “Region 2” markets (Europe and Japan) because the titles were not available.
    Another example are titles sold *legally* in Asia for a fraction of the cost of North America’s (or Europe).

    When it comes to Canada, Quebec get prevented from accessing a large part of the French movie catalogue for this sole reason: they are published in France as “Region 2” while in Canada it is “Region 1” ; therefore, Canadian are limited to what the official distributor offers domestically.

    And BluRay make things even worse as the DVD region locking is easily worked around.

  5. Grady Booth says:

    Most Importantly but Quite Forgotton
    The Internet has changed us from a society guided by very few editors, journalists, tv networks, record labels and such, to one where we are personally guided by family, friends, co-workers, peer groups, bloggers and such who post, or send us, everything from humour or recipes they know we’ll personally like, to, perhaps, medical articles they know we can personally use. If cutting and pasting and copying and emailing stuff is made illegal and technologically impossible, then we go back to the dark ages, literally.

  6. Fixing the WMV (making it seekable)
    If you downloaded the WMV video you might have noticed it is not seekable. I found a small free tool that quickly reparsed the file into an ASF, adding an index in the process, making it fully seekable. Tool is called AskBin available here:

    I used the command line version 1.7.1 and it took just a few seconds. (for the not-so tech saavy, this is the command I used: ‘asfbin.exe -i copycon-montreal.wmv -o copycon-montreal.asf’)

  7. fixed link
    Hmmm, the URL seems to have gotten truncated. Tool is available here:

  8. Bob Morris says:

    Grady – seems to me that you don’t in fact go back to the dark ages, but rather to those old-fashioned but quite recent times when you actually had to pay for what you wanted, or wanted to give other people. Maybe the German solution is worth looking at, where all computers and copiers include a small levy to compensate copyright owners.

  9. Claudio Calligaris says:

    Copyright for photographers
    From CAPIC, “Today, 82 years after the Copyright Act was proclaimed in Canada, our photographer members and all other professional and amateur photographers in Canada are still denied automatic ownership of copyright in commissioned works.

    Under Section 13(2) of the Act, any person or corporation that hires a photographer (commissions a work) will automatically own the copyright in that work, once the work has been paid for UNLESS there is an agreement to the contrary.

    No other creators in Canada are treated with such disdain! Canadian sculptors, playwrights, illustrators, authors, painters and other creators of original works automatically own the copyright in their work, even when the work is commissioned.”

  10. Nice to see everyone is on the same page eh? 😉

  11. Darryl Moore says:

    Copyright for photos (as it should be)
    Claudio, the copyright term for photographs is a fixed 50 years too, instead of the usual life+50. I’m not complaining mind you. I think we got the copyright thing worked out right for photographs. It’s all the other media we got wrong.

    So yeah, I agree we need to harmize the copyright rules of all works. But lets make the rules for all the other media more like photographs. Not the other way around.

  12. Photogs
    Yup, it’s correct for photographers. Copyright should be owned by those that pay for it’s creation. Don’t see how it could be otherwise, else what are they getting paid for? 50 years from day of creation sounds right too! (I am a photographer too, BTW)

    Fact is, if the photographers want to own the copyright on a commissioned work, they can put that in their contract and the commissioner can negotiate the price down accordingly.

  13. Summary Feedback
    1. Absolutely agree. Anti-circumvention and highly restricted copyright will only add to the astronomical costs of education.
    2. Accessing “free” material online is theft. Sure thing techno-hippy!
    3. No notices or threats of any kind without court order otherwise it’s racketeering.
    4. No one is disputing authors and artists right to earn a living. Just don’t expect to earn a living from a government enforced tax levy.
    5. Anti-circumvention laws are NOT balanced and offer NO benefit to the consumer. Should NOT be allowed.
    6. The music industry was slow to change to market conditions and by not offering fair online choices simply forced consumers to find alternatives. Law must not be used to ensure market share or business models. The only confusion is with big movies and big music. They confuse their oligopoly with a “free market”.
    7. Agree. Any laws that do not include very clear definitions of copyright and fair use will never be used fairly. The US’ DMCA clearly demonstrates this.
    8. Allowing any organization to collect a levy on top of current ISP charges is a very slippery slope and we all know that it will only open the door for every single business who thinks it is suffering damages from the “interwebs” to lineup with their hat in hand looking for easy money.
    9. Monthly levies are unworkable and only serve to preserve the failing business models that created these problems. The music industry is NOT losing money. The is a proven fact and big music FUD.
    10. McGill makes good point. Why doesn’t the industries that claim to be so damaged by these activities show the least interest in exploring alternatives? Because they would have to give up their oligopolies! Dah!
    11. Will someone in hte music industry PROVE where all these so-called jobs will be lost because 20,000 people on this planet downloaded the new U2 album for some ungodly reason? More industry FUD. This is especially true with Canadian artists. Sorry to break your bubbles eh but you have to look VERY hard to find a handful of Canadian artists on the P2P sites. Facts of life baby!
    12. Sharing is NOT theft. There is a very distinct difference. The industry wants everyone to think that sharing is illegal when if fact it is NOT.
    13. Payments to what organizations? i though we were paying artists and creators? Right?
    14.Trying to fix the P2P problem by selectively applying questionable laws to websites is unfair and will inevitably lead to legal chaos.
    15. Singer/Songwriter is partly correct. Singer/Songwriters make more money on the run than from song royalties. Playing their songs is promotion and they should be paying us!

    Ah screw it… the debate is nothing more than an argument for government to protect failing business models with legislation that offers NOTHING for the citizens of this country. Laws MUSt be written for the common good. Period.

    It’s time we all stood up and grew some balls and told the government and big entertainment to piss off and start innovating or die.

    Stop blaming your failures as businessmen and politicians on 15 years music downloaders!

  14. Joe Sanders says:

    I am so sick and tired of the American media industry coming up here and demanding we adopt their failed system (ie. DMCA). Screw the lot of you. We have a perfectly fine copyright system up here (ie. Sane). I just read this morning a judgment in a case regarding a student who downloaded music online. The damages were awarded at $22,500 PER SONG. The student in question had downloaded 30 songs. This is just unconscionable. We cannot allow these people to take over our government. Otherwise we will be seeing similar cases here.

    Was the blank media tax not enough? Did people forget about that already? I am about to boil over from all this bullshit.

  15. I perceive that the real problem with the downloading of copyrighted content from the Internet without regard for whether or not the provider of the content is legally able to do so, even if it IS for the private use of the downloader, could arguably be ignoring the original intent of copyright law, even though it might not be violating it by its current wording. Legal precedent in Canada currently interprets the intent of copyright law to be synonymous with its literal wording, but it is important to note that this is still, ultimately, just an interpretation, and is not actually ratified by any real law as of yet. Personally, I would hope this ambiguity is imminently resolved by any changes to the copyright act, and I would hope that such changes accomplish two clear goals: 1) unambiguously preserve and restore the intention behind copyright (which, I am aware, would overrule the aforementioned court case) and 2) balance this with an explicitly stated consumer’s right to copy for their own private use any copyrighted content that they have already legally purchased or otherwise legally acquired.

  16. Purpose
    Interesting comment Mark. I especially like the part where you forget to mention what the original purpose of copyright is. Could you imagine a world where the design for a screw is copyrighted? How about a nail? Tell me, is the general public poorer for having such access to worldwide media content? How many major textbook publishers do we have in Canada? Thompson and Quebecor? Do you really think it’s a good idea to limit Canadian knowledge to what two companies decide is relevant? Is it fair that because because other textbooks are not available for purchase here, we should not be granted access to them? Copyright was designed to ensure reasonable compensation to creators and innovators. Not control society’s exposure to new ideas and culture. I am ready to bet that local bands such as cheap suits and smaller bands such as swing actually benefit from p2p through exposure.