The speech from the throne: a digital strategy and IP reform

March 4th, 2010 by Barry Sookman Leave a reply »

Yesterday’s Speech from the Throne  gives us an insight into the Government’s legislative plans. Many of the initiatives in the throne speech are clearly needed to help bring Canada into the 21st century and to address the threats and opportunities that face us as Canadians and as citizens of a larger world community.

The Government placed significant emphasis on implementing new measures for success in the modern economy and in particular, for building the jobs and industries of the future. As the Government pointed out, we face new challenges, determined new competitors, and are in a “relentless pace of technology” change. We as Canadian “must keep step as the world races forward”.

The throne speech rightly recognized that to move ahead Canada needs a digital economy strategy and appropriate amendments to our copyright and other IP laws to create the incentives and legal infrastructure to support it:

“To fuel the ingenuity of Canada’s best and brightest and bring innovative products to market, our Government will build on the unprecedented investments in Canada’s Economic Action Plan by bolstering its Science and Technology Strategy. It will launch a digital economy strategy to  drive the adoption of new technology across the economy. To encourage new ideas and protect the rights of Canadians whose research, development and artistic creativity contribute to Canada’s prosperity, our Government will also strengthen laws governing intellectual property and copyright.”

The Government also recognized our need to work cooperatively with our trading partners and to reach agreements with them that will foster economic growth. This appears to include working with the EU with for a Free Trade Agreement (CETA). Though not expressly mentioned, it could include continued participation with our major trading partners in the ACTA negotiations to address worldwide trade in counterfeiting and piracy. The throne speech stated the following in this regard:

“Ensuring the broadest possible market for Canada’s goods and services will require the aggressive pursuit of free trade. Our Government will implement free trade agreements with Peru and the European Free Trade Association and ask Parliament to ratify new agreements with Colombia, Jordan and Panama. Given the disappointing results of the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations and the rapidly evolving global marketplace, our Government will aggressively diversify opportunities for Canadian business through bilateral trade agreements. It will continue trade negotiations with the European Union, India, the Republic of Korea, the Caribbean Community and other countries of the Americas. Building on the successful negotiation of new or expanded air agreements with 50 countries around the world, our Government will pursue additional agreements to achieve more competition, more choice for Canadians and more economic growth.”

The throne speech also mentioned that the Government plans to introduce legislation to “give police investigative powers for the twenty-first century. Canada’s police officers and chiefs have asked for these vital tools to stay ahead of the tactics adopted by today’s criminals.” This may suggest that the Government intends to re-introduce Bills C-46 and C-47 (lawful access), or variants of these bills in new legislation.

The Government also expressly mentioned “Working with provinces, territories and the private sector” to “implement a cyber-security strategy to protect our digital infrastructure”. This is a critically needed initiative that many other countries have recognized, or are urgently recognizing.

The throne speech did not expressly mention re-introducing the anti-SPAM bill, Bill C-27 (the ECPA). In light of the Government’s concerns about cyber-security, one would aslo expect any future bill that addresses spyware and other forms of malware will be put forward without the unintended consequences associated with previous attempts including ensuring  that such legislation does not inadvertently make it illegal to combat cyber-terrorism or other online threats.

Of course, we have had promises for some of these reforms, like to copyright, in successive throne speeches and the governments of the day have not made good on them.

Further, the devil will be in the details. We don’t just need copyright reforms, for example. We need reforms that will make a difference. That means copyright reforms that will be consistent with international standards so that we can ratify the WIPO Treaties. It means amendments that will protect ISPs when they act as true intermediaries and foster collaboration between ISPs and rights holders to reduce online file sharing and boost legitimate sales of creative products. It also means clarifying exceptions to infringement for users in a way that provides certainty as to what is legal while at the same time not undermining the economic incentives of our english, french and other cultural industries to create and disseminate works for the benefit of the public.

For more information about the Copyright Modernization Act or Bill C-11 or copyright reform, see Change and the Copyright Modernization Act.

 

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