Wikileaks Cables Show Massive U.S. Effort to Establish Canadian DMCA

Wikileaks has released dozens of new U.S. cables that demonstrate years of behind the scenes lobbying by U.S. government officials to pressure Canada into implementing a Canadian DMCA. The cables include confirmation that Prime Minister Harper personally promised U.S. President George Bush at the SPP summit in Montebello, Quebec in 2008 that Canada would pass copyright legislation, U.S. government lines on copyright reform that include explicit support for DMCA-style digital lock rules, and the repeated use of the Special 301 process to “embarrass” Canada into action. In fact, cables even reveal Canadian officials encouraging the U.S. to maintain the pressure and disclosing confidential information.

This post highlights some of the key cables. An earlier post discussed confirmation that public pressure delayed the introduction of a copyright bill in 2008 and a parallel post focuses on the linkages between CRIA and the U.S. government lobbying effort.

Prime Minister Harper Promises Copyright Reform

The cables include clear confirmation that the copyright issue has escalated to the very top with Prime Minister Harper repeatedly seeking to assure the U.S. that Canada would pass copyright legislation consistent with their demands.  A 2008 cable notes “the Prime Minister told the President last August that Canada would pass copyright legislation.” Moreover:

“senior GOC officials, especially Industry Minister Prentice, repeatedly assured the Ambassador and senior Mission Canada officers that the copyright bill would be introduced “soon.”  Specifically, assurances were given that the legislation had been finalized and would be introduced prior to the Christmas recess, and then again immediately upon Parliament’s return in January.  Neither of which occurred.”

This came on the heels of an April 2007 letter from Harper to U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins promising action. U.S. officials were not impressed by the letter, noting that it seemed to justify inaction on the file.  The Harper letter was in response to a Wilkins letter seeking digital lock legislation within a month.

Canadian Officials Provide Inside Information

The cables also suggest that the U.S. is often privy to inside information on what is on the way. In the summer of 2007, U.S. officials met with Ailish Johnson from PCO, who revealed that “the mandate letters from the Prime Minister to the incoming Ministers of Industry [Prentice] and Canadian Heritage [Verner] charged both Ministers with introducing a copyright  reform bill before the end of the year.” Let me repeat that – PCO told U.S. officials the content of the private mandate letters to two Ministers from the Prime Minister. At the same meeting, Johnson encouraged the U.S. to keep raising the issue, noting:

Both Johnson and Gray [of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce] said that U.S. Embassy  pressure has been helpful in moving this issue forward. They both also indicated that it would be helpful for the Embassy to continue to raise the issue with Canadian officials and  Members of Parliament, but said that public pressure from the Emabssy could be counter productive at this point.

U.S. Lobbying Pressure on Copyright

There are numerous cables that highlight U.S. strategies to pressure Canada on the copyright reform file.  In a June 2005 cable, the U.S. talks about the “need to engage the legislative branch as well as relevant departments”, proposes creating a bi-lateral working group, and offers to conduct training sessions for Canadian officials. A June 2006 cable discusses meetings with Ministers Bernier and Oda. A March 2007 cable chronicles repeated meetings and attempts to elevate the issue as a top priority.

Another cable discusses a strategy with Canadian copyright lobby groups that would allow for a “good cop, bad cop” approach:

some industry associations plan to use the anticipated USG insistence on notice and takedown as a chance to play good cop to our bad cop, and they will present their acceptance of notice and notice as a signal to the GOC that they are willing to be “more reasonable than the Americans”.

The cables show even the U.S. had a hard time taking Canadian claims of independence seriously. For example, when then Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda told the media that anti-camcording legislation was an independent policy change that was not the result of lobbying pressure from the U.S., a U.S. cable called her response “disingenuous.”

The U.S. also admits that the case for digital locks isn’t an easy one, noting in a cable that:

Efforts to encourage the GOC to ratify its WIPO obligations have been hindered by the sheer complexity of copyright law and IP-related issues, and perceptions by consumers and artists
that technological protection measures might be harmful.

U.S. on Bill C-60

The cables also confirm U.S. opposition to Bill C-60, the Liberal 2005 copyright bill.  The U.S. was displeased with a statement several months in advance of the bill that foreshadowed its content, particularly on digital locks and ISP liability. Once the bill was introduced, one cable  notes “faced with such a flawed document, some industry representatives are stuck hoping that the legislation, for which they pushed so long and hard, will die in committee.” Another cable includes the U.S. embassy putting out the call for assistance, saying “to make the case for stronger rules in areas such as Internet Service Provider liability, please provide a clear USG reaction to the draft legislation for us to use in discussion with stakeholders, legislators, GOC agencies and the press.”

U.S. on Bill C-61

In the months leading up to the introduction of the Conservative’s Bill C-61, the U.S. also expressed concern with a new policy to give the House of Commons review of all international treaties (I raised this as an issue at the time). The Embassy notes:

Of more direct interest to the USG, the new procedures could complicate the government’s efforts to bring Canadian law into compliance with the WIPO Internet treaties, which Canada signed in the late 1990’s but has not yet ratified. It remains unresolved whether the WIPO treaties will have to be tabled in Parliament for the 21-sitting-days before the associated  copyright legislation is introduced.

After Bill C-61 was introduced, a cable noted the media coverage of the bill was generally negative and the bill was likely to die on the order paper.

U.S. on the 2009 Copyright Consultation

The U.S. took a very cynical view of the 2009 consultation on copyright with a cable titled “Copyright Reform in Canada: Day 4,235“. Tanya Peatt, who has served as Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore lead advisor on copyright, told U.S. officials that the Canadian government was “conducting these consultations in part because of the heavy criticism for not
holding consultations over the last copyright bill.” The Embassy was not confident that a bill would be introduced in 2009 (it wasn’t with C-32 not introduced until June 2010).  The Embassy also sought speaking lines for its view on copyright, which include digital lock legislation to match the U.S. DMCA.


  1. I am not a lawyer, but I am definitely a Canadian who takes pride in being distinct, but at the time I do envy the Americans for having it together, where Canadians come off looking somewhat criminal.

  2. Nah, Everyone knows America is criminal by nature now, so that aspect of the story wasn’t a surprise

  3. So…
    Under Harper, Canada will only be a puppet state for the US to do at it pleases?

  4. I’d really like to know which US corporations are behind this.

  5. @james, I’m guessing that was sarcasm? The Americans have it together? lol You must have had your news turned off for the past decade or so.

    Under Harper, Canada will only be a puppet state for the US to do at it pleases?
    Under Igantieff, Canada will only be a puppet state for the US to do at it pleases?
    Under Layton, Canada will only be a puppet state for the US to do at it pleases?

  6. Un-Trusted Computing says:

    Saved from the DMCA via perpetual minorities?
    Hopefully we can keep electing minority governments so that politicians are perpetually afraid to lose their jobs should they ever try to pass a Canadian DMCA.

  7. Just like the UK
    seems like it, they allready have the UK in thier pocket, just a matter of brainwashing the public into believing someone has “wmd’s” or poses some kind of threat, the constitution is just a piece of paper for those at the top to wipe thier arses with.

  8. James Moore and Tony Clement combine Powers to form “TEAM AMERICA”
    Good to see that we had some real patriots in our cabinet!

  9. What I received from Minister Prentice …
    a standard form letter from two government channels, one of which was Minister Prentice that stated in part:

    “What this Bill is not:
    it is not a mirror image of U.S. copyright laws. Our Bill is made-in-Canada with different exceptions for educators, consumers and others and brings us into line with more than 60 countries including Japan, France, Germany and Australia”

    I was LIED TO by the MINISTER and I’m PISSED!!

  10. Annonymous says:

    Coming off looking somewhat criminal.
    I’m tired of being labeled a criminal every time I attempt to oppose this impending packet inspection regime. I am a freedom fighter fighting for good. I will not give up, ever. And it you, Canadians, who are going to choose, on Monday, whether or not to spend your government’s powers fighting this losing war with your useless fighter jets. Is that economic responsibility?

  11. Copyright Reform has its place… but
    I am a father of a young family and I have 1st hand witnessed the destruction to discs (dvd, Wii, etc) that small hands can cause. In order to ensure that purchased content survives I am forced to break digital locks on such media, and have the family use the copied versions while keeping the originals in pristine condition. I’ll echo Annonymous cry to battle until the content providers bring their method of thinking into the tech age. I have no problem paying for content, but I am against paying for it across x mediums, and having to pay for it again when a disc fails (which ultimately is negligible in cost).

  12. I was LIED TO by the MINISTER and I’m PISSED!!
    Csiera, they have been lying to you for a very long time. There are certain ‘copyright purists’ out there who like to call us ‘just a few tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy cooks’. All the while doing those very ‘crazy’ things we talk about behind closed doors.

    Thank you Dr. Geist and Wiki-leaks, keep up the good work.

  13. Greg L Bean says:

    Do posters above realise that with warrantless wiretapping their posts on this site and others are neither anonymous nor alias. Might as well use your real names.

    See MacLeans article google “Harper’s promise: a warrantless online surveillance state”.

    This seems a much bigger issue than copyright, though copyright could also be used to punish whistleblowers. ex. Church of Scientology shut down wikileaks publishing their manuals by suing for copyright.

  14. Mr. Fauche says:

    Canadian MPAA: Their stats and inside favours lead to the death of a kid
    Anyone remember that famous CAM releasing group called MaVeN who turned out to be a kid in Montreal? The one who killed himself after being arrested for CAM’ing?

    Leaked cables target Montreal crime

    -The RCMP did arrest one unidentified video pirate in Montreal, but reportedly told U.S. diplomats they only did so “as a personal favour” to an unidentified CMPDA official, one cable suggests.

    -U.S. diplomats obtained data from the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association that suggested 18% of all pirated movies sold around the globe were traceable to recording in Montreal theatres, costing Canadian members alone more than $118 million in 2005.

    Seems the kid was busted only as a favour to the Canadian MPAA!

  15. Mr. Fauche says:


    “Harper’s promise: a warrantless online surveillance state”.

    This would fall in line with harpers joint US border security thing and his allowing of personal info of millions of Canadians to be given to the Americans (example: Canadian woman denied entry to U.S. because of suicide attempt, think I read two similar ones like this now).

    Also, Bell Canada’s previous president and CEO (the one before Cope, I forget his name) made a controversial speech a few years ago stating they need to co-operate and enhance border security with the States. This used to be on their website. Might still be.

    Harper can’t keep his promises to the americans w/o involving all Canadian telecoms.

    Besides, nothing to hide right? 😉

    I can’t wait for the remainder of the wikileaks. They should have all been released before the election :/

    The lobbying pressure relates to more than just copyright. As seen in the Sun Media MaVeN release the americans are annoyed at Canada’s privacy policies (and those in the Quebec charter).

    It all goes hand in hand. It’s a multi-pronged lobby and it removes Canadian idealologies and replaces it with American idealologies.

    (a reply to Greg L Bean)
    While I recognize that this is a bigger issue than copyright, it is copyright that Harper and others are using as an excuse to introduce wiretapping. They are doing it “for the artists”, not to stifle political opposition, right?

    The question is, do “regulate the Internet” people realize that open wi-fi availability is continuing to boom, that there are thousands of proxy options, hundreds of VPN solutions, and there is still the legal option that if I claim my wife did it, and she claims that I did it, they must acquit?

    No, Harper is starting a war that is going to make the “war on drugs” look like a walk in the park! All he has to do is bust some college kid every other month and taxpayers will keep sending him their cheques for it. He’s no idiot, that’s for sure!

  17. Too bad maVen kid only cammed crappy movies. Way to go MPAA, you made your point!

  18. Media is important by the way….
    The big battle is not how you recive your information but how you will recive it in the end. The thougt that ther3 would be a singular entity to trust in your communications is boo.. don’t make me send att after you!

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  21. What’s up?–ndp-support-continues-to-climb-poll-shows?bn=1

    Interesting to see that Canadians are now polarized (Cons/NDP) with the Liberals in the middle attracting little interest.

    How did we get here? Well for sure the Cons policy to favor big corporations interests against anything else is attracting a loyal vote from the wealthy and the retired people that live from their RRSP investments in stocks. However it appears that other Canadians had enough of this and are actively looking for a change.


  22. Amazing
    never really thought about it liek that before dude. Makes sense.

  23. Mr. Fauche says:

    Canadian Civilian Fatalities Caused by the American MPAA Lobby
    Seems torrentfreak reads this blog (or the p2pnet blog where I originally posted it), they go more into the wikileak release of the RCMP doing a personal favour for the Canadian MPAA (and of course the american lobby) which lead to the death of that maVen kid.

    Wikileaks: Police Arrested Movie Pirate As “A Personal Favor” To Movie Official

    The question I have is:

    Should the RCMP, who did this personal favour for the american lobby and the Canadian MPAA, be sued for being responsible for this kids death? Or should they all be sued?

    How many Canadian kid deaths will it take before someone from our government has the balls to tell the american lobby to just F off?

    Harpers fines and whatnot in his copyright bill will surely lead to more cases of Canadian children fatalities.

  24. Mr. Shocked says:

    Interesting leak
    Interesting new tidbit of information here in regards to border security (as mentioned above).

    You know how the U.S. is always saying that illegal immigrants use Canada to get into the states and thus the reason for enhanced border security and a joint US-Canada special border security pact that Harper is trying to ram through….

    Wikileaks: Illegal aliens live first in U.S. then try to get status in Canada

    heh it’s the opposite of what the US is claiming.

    So tell me again why we need this Harper enhanced security with him giving detailed info on Canadian people to the states to protect their border from illegals?

    Maybe we should only demand it from them since they are the source and the stepping stone?

  25. Public outrage?
    I’ve been waiting a couple of days, but outside of the usual places I have missed a public outrage at how foreign influence is shaping Canadian laws. What’s going on here? Have people been lulled to sleep or are aspiring politicians aware that career-wise it’s not in their best interest to start rocking the boat on these issues?

  26. If the Conservatives win a majority as forecasted, I doubt it would be very long before we see these Bills re-introduced.

  27. Regarding the Camcordering Arrest
    I don’t think the police can be sued over his death. However “doing personal favours” is a pretty blatant violation of the rule of law, and someone should be held accountable.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Don’t be US
    As an American who is very worried about over criminalization, I sincerely hope the Canadian government will resist our scumbag politicians telling them what to make illegal.

    It is impossible to sustain the current IP policy without criminalizing extremely large portions of the population, so the question becomes: Is it worth it?

    There will still be music without the RIAA…

  29. It becomes an issue of enforceability. C-32 criminalizes over half the Canadian population. Generously, Internet tracking might catch, let’s say, 1/2 of them. That’s impossible to enforce. Plain an simple, it will go down as another law NO ONE listens to. Sure breaking digital locks might become illegal and the tools as well, but how does that stop me from writing my own tool using open standards or downloading a tool, such VLC, from a server located in a different country. It doesn’t, it can’t, it’s useless.

    Has everyone gone out and bought their American flags yet? Might as well stock up some Chapstick too, since we’ll all be ki$$ing the American a$$es soon enough.

    Osculum Obscenum

  30. Lazy Canadians
    It’s refreshing to see there are those who take the time to voice themselves and their opposition to the Harper Dictatorship. However, for every one of us who are mad enough to do something about it there are thousands of Canadians who are more concerned about their favorite TV show or where’s the action for the weekend.

    It’s a sad reality about Canadian Politics and the disgusting display of blase, unintelligent and passive involvement.

    CANADA is being sold out from CANADIAN citizens. What future do you expect for our children if you don’t get off your @sses and do something about it. Doing nothing is consent which is exactly what happened when Canada supported a bill that allowed the state to to revoke parental rights. Soon it will be our water and municipal services. In the process our wonderful USA whipping boy a.k.a Heil Harper will see to it that our freedom of speech will be eliminated so he doesn’t fall out of lock step with Obama.

    I’ve started organizing monthly meetings in my community to get start prodding lazy Canadians to get involved and gone so far as to alienate friends who can’t show any interest.

    Lets stop complaining and start showing the world what we are doing to stop this.

    Tells us all what you personally have will or are willing to do.


  31. About MaVeN and Movie Camcording.
    Surprisingly i read about my now dead partner in crime Geremi. Heck the guy didnt even cam movies for the $. He did it for the fun of it. Never did he make a dime out of this content, and believe me he spent a good amount of money on a good cam, and a fair bit of time polishing the results.. For the fun of it.

    Now apparently this was just a favor from canada to the us? Heck they took him in, and once he got released first thing once home he suicides himself. For a favor. For the us.

    He would have given you his shirt off his back if you were cold, and his last meal if you were starved. Yet he’s dead for a freakin favor.

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