The Canadian government announced its plans for a copyright review in December 2017, tasking the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology with the review. That report has been in the drafting stage for several months and is expected before the summer. In an effort to dampen concerns that Canadian Heritage would play a diminished role in the review, the responsible ministers asked the Industry committee to ask the Heritage committee to conduct a review on remuneration models for artists and creative industries. The formal request asked the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to “call upon the expertise of a broad range of stakeholders impacted by copyright to ensure a holistic understanding of the issues at play.”
Rather than providing the recommendations directly to the Industry committee as requested, the Heritage committee and chair Julie Dabrusin, a Liberal MP, chose instead to release its full report today. The report, which utterly failed to comply with the request to call on a broad range of stakeholders, is the most one-sided Canadian copyright report issued in the past 15 years, largely mirroring the approach of the discredited 2004 Bulte report that was subsequently rejected by the government.
Representing little more than stenography of lobbying positions from Canadian cultural groups, the report simply adopts as recommendations a wide range of contentious proposals: copyright term extension, restricted fair dealing, increased damages, as well as several new rights and payments. There is no attempt to engage with a broad range of stakeholders, much less grapple with contrary evidence or positions.
For example, on the issue of educational issues, the report adopts the recommendations of the publishing industries, referencing contrary positions only as an afterthought (I am referenced based on my submission). The committee did not hear from many alternative perspectives, but where they did – either in person or via a submission – most are ignored. Professors Jeremy de Beer, Ariel Katz, Nick Mount, Meera Nair along with lawyer Howard Knopf and author Cory Doctorow all contributed to the process, but garnered no mention in the report other than being listed as participants.
The issue of copyright term extension provides a good illustration of the committee’s one-sided approach. By any reasonable measure, the issue of extending the term of copyright from life of the author plus 50 years to life plus 70 years is controversial. Canada suspended the extension in the revamped TPP and resisted term extension for years given ample evidence that it does not lead to new creativity but would harm access. Yet the committee recommends term extension, admitting:
No witnesses expressed outright opposition to extending of the copyright term from 50 to 70 years after death.
Any report that failed to include any witnesses opposing term extension has not met with a broad range of stakeholders. In fact, the committee makes no mention of the word “balance”, only citing the term in quotes from two witnesses. The report will be trumpeted by some rights holders, but the supposed intended audience – the Industry committee conducting the copyright review – should reject it as unhelpful, one-sided, and inconsistent with its instructions.