Behind the Scenes of Bill C-32: The Committee Submissions

The new copyright bill is scheduled to be introduced tomorrow with the government planning to restart the copyright legislative committee and pick up where it left off in March when the election call killed Bill C-32 (talking points, clause-by-clause analysis of the bill). Given the plans to restart the committee, it is worth asking what the committee actually heard during months of hearings from November 2010 to March 2011. There are obviously the transcripts of the various hearings, but the detailed recommendations typically come from direct submissions to the committee. Those have not been posted online, but I did obtain copies of all unique submissions (there were hundreds of letters from individuals) to the C-32 committee. Together with Diana Cooper, a second year law student at the University of Ottawa, we reviewed all unique submissions and tried to categorize their recommendations.

Given the number of submissions, it should come as no surprise to find that there is at least one group or person who criticizes every proposed reform and at least one that supports it. In fact, this was part of the plan. According to documents obtained under the Access to Information Act, department officials developed their committee witness list with a requirement that “at least one witness will strongly support every provision in the Bill” and a preference for witnesses “that have expressed an overall positive view”(though it recognized some may have negative views on certain aspects of the bill).

A full chart of the submissions is posted below and available for download here. There is also a second chart that tracks the submissions based the specific provision available here. Digital locks are easily the top issue raised in the submissions with many submissions calling on the government to ensure that digital locks do not trump fair dealing or that the prohibition on circumvention should be linked to infringement. In addition to many individuals, group submissions supporting this position include:

  • Council of Ministers of Education Canada (representing all Ministers of Education outside Quebec)
  • Documentary Organization of Canada
  • Canadian Association of Research Libraries
  • Canadian Association of University Teachers
  • Canadian Civil Liberties Association
  • Canadian Home and School Federation
  • Canadian Library Association
  • Canadian National Institute for the Blind
  • Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright (which includes leading telecom, retailer, and Internet companies)
  • Canadian Association of Law Libraries
  • Retail Council of Canada
  • Canadian Council of Archives
  • Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Canadian Federation of Students
  • Canadian Teachers Federation
  • Association of Canadian Community Colleges
  • Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
  • Association pour l’avancement des sciences et des techniques de la documentation (ASTED)

In other words, virtually every education group and provincial education minister in Canada – along with major businesses and retailers – have joined with librarians, archivists, and documentary film makers to oppose the government’s position on digital locks.

As for the many other submissions, a sampling of suggestions include:

  • the music industry wants to remove the changes to statutory damages but add discretion to lower damages to zero as well as give courts the power to block websites
  • Canadian Federation of Musicians want a graduated response system for ISPs
  • many creator groups want to eliminate fair dealing for education and the user-generated content exception
  • Project Gutenberg recommends creating a safe harbour provision for orphan works
  • COPIBEC wants to increase statutory damages
  • SOCAN wants to eliminate the addition parody and satire for fair dealing as well as limit the scope of ISP safe harbours with possible joint liability with the copyright infringer
  • Council of Ministers of Education Canada want to drop the destruction of course materials requirement
  • Entertainment Software Association of Canada wants to limit the scope of interoperability exception
  • Canadian Civil Liberties Association want amend the provision on circumvention of digital locks for those with perceptual disabilities by removing “not unduly impair”
  • Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences want to eliminate crown copyright
  • Canadian Teachers Federation want to include multiple copies for classroom use under fair dealing for education
  • CMRRA-SODRAC want strict limits on the backup copy provision
  • Union des artistes want ISPs to compensate rights holders for losses due to infringement
  • Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright wants to ensure that cloud computing and network PVR services should not be required to pay additional copyright charges

This is obviously just a small sample of the submissions and their positions. The charts provide greater detail on each submission.  How the government treats all of these submissions remains the big unknown since with a majority it is positioned to pass the bill in whatever manner it sees fit. C-32 Submissions by Organization


  1. Last time around, Dean Del Maestro wanted the committee to meet 8 hours per day, every day, so they could blast through the process before Christmas. Now that they have a majority, how much attention do we really expect the committee to pay to the 100’s of submissions and objections submitted about C-32? They will just repeat their “we were given a strong mandate” mantra, make a few cosmetic changes, and ram this through in 5 minutes.

  2. So much for democracy
    We don’t live in a democracy. How can a government pass laws that favour a few corporations ignoring what the population wants? What we have is a fascist dictatorship. We don’t even have the right to organize a recall of our MPs.

  3. Darren: We became a dictatorship when people voted the conservatives as a majority government.

  4. Except most people didn’t vote for them…

    I would hope that once the bill gets to committee, it would become a little more like what Canadians are looking for. At the present time, it is not. | instant tax solutions complaints