This week Policy Options launched a new series on copyright reform with plans to provide perspectives from across the spectrum. I was delighted to write the first published piece, which starts by making the case that the Conservative government got far more right than wrong in 2012. Canadian copyright law is widely regarded as one of the most innovative in the world with unique, forward-looking provisions (non-commercial user generated content, notice-and-notice) and flexible fair dealing. The last five years have largely achieved what the government had in mind as the days of labelling Canada a “piracy haven” are over, the cultural industries such as movies and music are enjoying record earnings, and new digital services have found great success in Canada.
So, as Parliament prepares for a review of the law later this year, what’s next for Canadian copyright?
I note the following:
The mandatory five-year review was lauded in 2012 as a mechanism that would ensure the law remains current, in what is a fast-paced digital world. On reflection, the uncertainty associated with the prospect of never-ending reforms may ultimately do more harm than good, as would-be investors may question whether Canada is committed to its current path of striking a balance between creators’ and users’ rights.
The 2017 review should be used as a benchmarking exercise, enabling the many stakeholders to give their perspectives on what is working well and what needs to be reviewed. There is certainly an opening for modest reforms that build on the changes in 2015 (extending the term of copyright for sound recordings) and 2016 (ratification of the Marrakesh copyright treaty for the blind and visually impaired). But a radical overhaul would be harmful, as the full implications of the 2012 reforms and recent court rulings are still being sorted out.
The low-hanging fruit offers potential action for the three government departments vying for copyright policy influence: Innovation, Science and Economic Development (notice-and-notice, fair use) Canadian Heritage (Copyright Board of Canada), and International Trade (NAFTA, TPP).
The full piece can be found here.