This is copyright week in Canada as multiple reports indicate that the long-awaited copyright bill will be tabled on Thursday. The recent round of reports are noteworthy for several reasons. First, they confirm earlier reports that the government plans to introduce DMCA-style anti-circumvention legislation. This suggests that the digital lock provisions that were the source of enormous public outrage (and the dominant issue during last summer's copyright consultation) will remain largely unchanged from Bill C-61 and will unquestionably be the most hotly debated aspect of the bill.
Second, the reports also drop hints of other aspects of the bill. While I previously reported there will be no flexible fair dealing provision, the reports indicate that there will some changes to fair dealing. This comes as little surprise, given that C-61 included provisions on time shifting and format shifting.
Third, the government is increasingly turning its attention to what comes after the bill is introduced. The Canadian Press reports that the government is planning to pressure the opposition parties to hold summer hearings in an effort to fast-track the bill through the House of Commons. While this raises concern for many groups who may face challenges participating in summer hearings (and the hearings themselves risk becoming abbreviated as MPs cut the process short to get back to their constituencies), Industry Minister Tony Clement has also indicated that the government is open to compromise:
“I’m not coming down from the mountain with this chiselled in stone. This bill may have elements in it where we could seek some consensus and there could be some positive amendments to this bill. That’s certainly in the realm of possibility too, and let the process begin."
These comments make it absolutely crucial for Canadians to take stock of the bill once introduced and to ensure that their voices are heard. As I argued in my recent Hill Times piece, there is room for compromise on anti-circumvention legislation in the form of a provision confirming that circumvention of a digital lock is not prohibited when undertaken for lawful purposes. This would be consistent with the WIPO Internet treaties and a previous Canadian bill (Bill C-60).