As the national copyright consultation launched earlier this summer hits the midway point, the first four weeks have attracted considerable interest. There have already been more than a thousand submissions, one town hall meeting, and five roundtable discussions, with many Canadians visiting copyrightconsultation.ca to provide their views on copyright reform.
Changes such as expanded fair dealing, legal protection for digital locks, and new digital levies have emerged as the most-discussed issues. However, my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) grapples with one of Industry Minister Tony Clement's core concerns: In an era of rapidly changing technology, how does the government ensure that a new copyright bill is built to last?
Clement's focus on longevity appears to be a tacit acknowledgement that Bill C-61, the last Conservative copyright bill that died with the federal election call last fall, was not sufficiently forward looking. With specific references to VHS tapes, emphasis on digital rights management, and blocks on the use of network-based personal video recorders, critics argued that bill was past its best before date the moment it was introduced. Designing copyright reforms that are not rendered outdated soon after introduction requires identifying the right principles to use as a metric against which new provisions can be measured. At least four come to mind.