The second reading debate on Bill C-11 will conclude today with the bill headed to committee for further hearings and possible amendment. Yesterday, the Globe published an opinion piece
by Peter Nowak that juxtaposes the widespread consultation on copyright reform in Canada with digital lock provisions that “wilfully ignores” public opinion. Nowak notes how the U.S. ultimately responded to public concern in stopping SOPA, while the same appears to be happening in Europe as protests over the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement continue to grow
(there are continent-wide protests
planned for February 11th).
One of my posts this week focused on concerns that Industry Minister Christian Paradis has said he cannot speculate on how Bill C-11’s digital lock rules will be enforced. The post identifies numerous examples of how the rules could harm creators, students, researchers, consumers, and even the visually impaired (further background information on Bill C-11 here and here). Yet these concerns are not new and have been raised for several years. Indeed, it is instructive to see how the public concern over the digital lock rules and now possible inclusion of SOPA-style amendments has mushroomed over the years.
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The government imposed time allocation
yesterday on Bill C-11, a move that will wrap up second reading debate on the copyright reform bill on Friday and send it to the Bill C-11 committee soon thereafter. While the government’s overuse of time allocation is certainly a concern, the debate is not over and several well coordinated tweets
of support hardly mask the huge public concern
with the bill’s digital lock rules and proposed SOPA-style amendments proposed by several copyright lobby groups that has generated tens of thousands of emails to MPs in recent days. As described further below, the opposition stems from rules that will have an impact on the legitimate activities of millions, creating barriers to creators, students, journalists, researchers, and the visually impaired.
During yesterday’s debate, several Conservative MPs emphasized that the copyright bill is one of the most consulted pieces of legislation in recent memory. For example, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore stated “this is my 12th year as a member of Parliament and I can tell her that except for the Liberal government’s Bill C-2, the response to 9/11, this legislation will have had more consideration at a stand-alone legislative committee and parliamentary and public consideration with all of the tens of thousands of submissions we received from Canadians in person and in writing and the consultations we did across the country before we drafted the bill.”
The government is right when it says there has been wide consultation (a recap of the 2009 copyright consultation here). The question is whether it has taken the public comments into account and conducted a full analysis of the implications of its current proposal. There is reason to believe that it has not.
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Copyright dominated debate at the House of Commons on Tuesday
as Bill C-11 was the primary subject of debate. Digital locks was one of the most discussed issues (new levies were the other), with the main opposition parties lining up to oppose the bill due to the digital lock provisions. For example, the NDP’s Charlie Angus stated:
Unless the digital lock provisions change, the New Democratic Party will not support the bill because it is not balanced.
Liberal Industry critic Geoff Regan stated:
the Liberal Party will not support Bill C-11. The digital lock provisions in this bill are far too strict and they override virtually every other right that is in the legislation.
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Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore recently granted TVO’s Search Engine an interview
on Bill C-11 and Canadian copyright reform. The interview demonstrates yet again that Moore is one of the government’s most skilled ministers – he knows the copyright file and is able to actively debate its merits. Yet the interview raised several points worth challenging.
At 4:30, host Jesse Brown raises the issue of the “book burning” provision that requires students and teachers to destroy lessons that rely on the exception within 30 days of the conclusion of the course. Moore moves quickly to the departmental talking points that I obtained under Access to Information, which claim that this is simply part of the balance. Yet few teachers will rely on a provision that mandates the destruction of their materials at the conclusion of a course and few students will want to have their materials destroyed. The provision is an illusion – it looks at first glance like it will assist education, yet practically it will be ignored. At 6:00, Moore continues by arguing that it is common for students to encounter “time limited” materials. But this provision does more than just create time limitations for students since it creates matching time limits for teachers, which effectively ensures it will rarely be used.
At 12:00, Brown and Moore engage in a discussion on digital locks, with Moore turning to the claim that the government isn’t imposing digital locks, that the free market should work, government should get out of the way, and creators should be able to protect themselves against people who want to hack into their product and steal from them. Brown notes that a better balance is available by linking circumvention to infringment, to which Moore goes right back to the department talking points that simply state the government has the right balance.
Moore’s response demands a few comments.
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Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore was busy on Twitter yesterday, pointing to many groups expressing support for Bill C-11, the new copyright bill. While he omitted pointing to releases from students
(“anti-circumvention provisions will seriously undermine students’, teachers’ and the general public’s use of copyrighted works.”) and librarians
(“legislation which does not include the right to bypass digital locks for non-infringing purposes is fundamentally flawed”), it is interesting to look at some of the organizations he did cite.
For example, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind is quoted as saying â€œthis copyright legislation ensures Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have opportunities to participate in life.â€ What did the CNIB tell the Bill C-32 legislative committee in its brief?
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