What’s next for copyright reform in Canada? (updated)

September 10th, 2011 by Barry Sookman Leave a reply »

July 21, 2011 was the first annual general meeting of Music Canada (formerly CRIA). Not surpisingly, an important focus of the meeting was copyright reform. This issue was highlighted by the presence of Minister Moore, the Heritage Minister, a strong supporter of the creative industries, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Dean Del Mastro, also an important player in the copyright reform process. They both gave strong indications of what’s next for copyright reform.

MP Dean Del Mastro led off by introducing Minister Moore. In doing so, he noted the importance of the cultural sector to Canadians pointing out the tremendous opportunities available to Canadians. He also noted that “no one understands the dynamics of the cultural industries better than Minister Moore”.

Minister Moore started his remarks by highlighting the importance of the cultural industries to Canada. He pointed out that these industries are a massive generator of economic wealth and social well being for Canadians. These industries contribution to the GDP and jobs are larger than many of Canada’s traditional bricks and mortar and resource based industries.

The Heritage Minister expressed the clear intent to move ahead with reforming Canada’s copyright laws in the fall “hitting the ground running” and by re-introducing Bill C-32. “We plan to reintroduce Bill C-32 when we come back in the fall. We don’t want to lose the momentum.”

Minister Moore expressed the importance of getting copyright reform and policies related to copyright right. He noted that Canada has lagged on copyright modernization calling our current laws “laughable and an embarrassment internationally”. He said we can’t let the status quo continue.

He stated that Canada needs to be in the “vanguard” protecting IP. We should “lead the world” and be “a leader not a follower” to ensure that our creative industries can grow and thrive. “I don’t want Canada’s cultural industries to become just a hobby. It’s a business and should be.” He stated that copyright reform should not be a partisan issue as “we all have a responsibility to protect this country’s economy”.

Minister Moore explained that after Bill C-61 died, the government took the time through the consultation process to think about how Bill C-61 could be improved. That process resulted in Bill C-32. He admitted that Bill C-32 wasn’t perfect and didn’t satisfy everyone. He went on though to express the view that C-32 was “balanced” and that no legislation as complicated as copyright will satisfy everyone.

The Heritage Minister made clear his desire to move forward with copyright reform with the goal of “nailing it” to “get it right”. He emphasized the role of government is to create permission based marketplace rules to ensure than creativity can be protected “so that it can’t be stolen or given away to friends”.

The Minister stated that there would be technical fixes to the Bill. However, he signaled that key provisions in the Bill would not be watered down in order to “compromise with those who think theft is freedom.” “We need to make piracy and theft illegal in Canada and that’s what we are going to do.”

He pointed out that “those who want to steal from you without permission” are “wrong and we’re not going to tolerate it.” “Theft in the name of creativity isn’t creativity, it’s theft.”

Minister Moore went on to observe that the copyright reform should be an ongoing process. The next bill will only be the “beginning of something very important”. The 5 year mandatory review built into the Bill will set an “expectation for all future governments to pay attention on an ongoing basis” forcing them to “stay engaged, be on the cutting edge.”

Minister Moore made some other comments about the government’s plans for copyright reform earlier this week in a CBC interview on “Q” with Jian Ghomeshi.

In the interview, he also spoke about the need to get copyright reform right:

Expectations are up much higher, so you really have to nail it. There’s no excuses now. You really have to nail it. I think of the big legislative effort that we had in the last parliament from my portfolio which we’re going to be tackling again this fall. Copyright reform – we want to get that right. It is absolutely essential. You know, Canada – one of the things that we do best in the world is intellectual property, which is to say arts and culture, music and television, the video game industry, audio visual production and all that. Intellectual property and intellectual development is what we do best in the world and yet we have an intellectual property regime in Canada that is bush league and it needs to be improved. We have legislation to do that and we’re going to be tackling that very aggressively.

He also emphasized the importance of the creative industries to Canada’s economy and why copyright reform is so essential to setting the right framework to enabling Canadians to succeed in a very competitive global marketplace.

Arts and culture does represent over 46 billion dollars in the Canadian economy. It’s over 640,000 jobs in the Canadian economy which is to say it’s 3 times the size of Canada’s insurance industry, twice the size of Canada’s forest industry. To invest in arts and culture and to support the creative economy is to support the economy as a whole. A lot of the things Canada used to do incredibly well in manufacturing and in our other traditional industries that others are now catching up with us and surpassing us – economies that we didn’t think would but certainly are. China, Japan, South Korea and other countries. What Canada still does better – better than anyone else in the world – is intellectual property, which is to say music, performing arts, theatre, television show and film. We do those things better than anybody else. We need to make sure that the regime of policies that the government has, not just funding, but copyright legislation, investments, support, drawing in the private sector to make sure there’s a steady base of support for culture that doesn’t just come from taxpayers. All of these things have to be working together in concert to make sure that Canada leads the world.

When can we expect our new bill to be in force? According to MP Dean Del Mastro, the goal is to give Canadians an in force bill by Christmas. Now that’s a stocking stuffer!

This week Heritage Minister James Moore also said he’s hoping for the amendments to the Copyright Act to pass by Christmas. According to the Globe and Mail, Minister Moore told The Canadian Press in an interview that the Conservative government will re-introduce Bill C-32 this fall, without amendments. The new Bill will go back to a legislative committee for review. Stakeholders who appeared before the previous legislative committee won’t be asked re-appear. According to the Globe, Minister Moore said:

“We’ve taken a couple runs at it before in minority Parliaments, but we think that we have a very good formula with the old Bill C-32 and when we come forward with our legislative agenda this fall we want to pick up where we left off, which is to continue the study of the legislation,”…

“This is long overdue in Canada. We did so much consultation, so much preparation, there was such a depth of understanding of the legislation that we tabled that we want to continue the study of that legislation.”

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