Throne Speech promises swift passage of copyright amendments

The Throne Speech delivered earlier today promises “swift passage of copyright legislation that balances the needs of creators and users.”  With a majority Government, the fourth try to amend the Copyright Act since 2005 will likely succeed where Bills C-60 (2005), C-61 (2008), and C-32 (2010) did not.

The copyright reforms are a long time coming. Canada has acknowledged since 1997 that it needs to adapt its laws to address digital technologies and the Internet. That year it signed the 1996 WIPO Treaties.Since then, at least 12 government, department, and committee reports have studied and made recommendations for reform to address digital issues.[1] So have Canadian businesses.[2]

In 2004 the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommended reforms to the Act.[3]In 2007 two all-party government committees examining counterfeiting and piracy problems noted significant deficiencies in Canadian law and made important recommendations to address them.[4] In 2008 the government’s Competition Policy Review Panel urged reforms to bring Canada’s laws into the Internet era.[5] In July 2009 the Canadian government launched a nationwide consultation on copyright modernization.[6]

Successive Canadian governments have acknowledged the need to modernize the Act and signalled that reforms were forthcoming. In 2007 the government, through four Cabinet ministers, acknowledged the importance of copyright in promoting innovation and attracting investment and committed to legislative reform, including implementation of the WIPO Treaties[7]. In 2008 Canada committed through a multilateral declaration to modernize its laws to deal with digital issues.[8]

Four previous throne speeches since the turn of the millennium have promised reform.

  • In 2001 the government promised to “provide better copyright protection for new ideas and knowledge [to] ensure that Canadian laws and regulations remain among the most modern and progressive in the world, including those for intellectual property and competitiveness.”
  • The Throne Speech of October 2007 made a similar pledge: “Our Government will improve the protection of cultural and intellectual property rights in Canada, including copyright reform.”
  • The November 2008 Throne Speech stated: “Cultural creativity and innovation are vital not only to a lively Canadian cultural life, but also to Canada’s economic future.” It went on to commit the government to “proceed with legislation to modernize Canada’s copyright laws and ensure stronger protection for intellectual property.”
  • In 2010 the Throne Speech stated:  “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.”[9]

It now looks like the promise in this fifth Throne Speech will be fulfilled:

The success of Canada’s job-creating businesses demands both hard work and good ideas, and we must create the right conditions for both to be rewarded. Our Government will introduce and seek swift passage of copyright legislation that balances the needs of creators and users.

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


[1] Canadian Electronic Commerce Strategy (1998); Discussion Paper on the Implementation of the WIPO Copyright Treaty (1998); Discussion Paper on the Implementation of the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (1998); A Framework for Copyright Reform (2001); Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues (2001); Focus Paper (Digital Copyright Issues) (2002); Supporting Culture and Innovation (s.92 Report) (2002); Government Statement on Proposals for Copyright Reform (2004); Status Report on Copyright Reform (2004); Technological Protection Measures (2-part Heritage Canada paper,2004); Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Counterfeit Goods in Canada— A Threat to Public Safety (May 2007); Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, Counterfeiting and Piracy Are Theft (June 2007)

[2] . See Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, Report on Counterfeiting and Piracy in Canada: A Road Map for Change, March 2007; Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Protection of Intellectual Property: A Case for Ontario, December 2007; Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Intellectual Property Council, A Time for Change: Toward a New Era for Intellectual Property Rights in Canada, February 2009.

[3] Interim Report on Copyright Reform (2004).

[4] Public Safety Report; Industry Report. These reports were the result of extensive hearings that canvassed the views of Canadian businesses, intellectual property experts, trade associations, and enforcement officers. The committees made numerous specific recommendations, including that Canada enact legislation to ratify the WIPO Treaties; strengthen civil remedies for counterfeiting and piracy infringements; and provide the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and law enforcement officials with the express authority to target, detain, seize, and destroy counterfeit and pirated goods on their own initiative and in accordance with due process and Canadian law.

[5] Government of Canada, Competition Policy Review Panel— Compete to Win, Final Report, June 2008. The panel noted that the importance of the Internet to all aspects of economic activity “has brought new urgency to updating IP frameworks in Canada.” It urged the government to seize the opportunity to develop a strong IP capacity and to “demonstrate to the world how competition and productivity can be furthered by a modern IP regime.” It observed that “[t]here is no reason for Canada’s patent and copyright frameworks not to be ‘state of the art’ for the Internet age.”

[6] My recommendations are at http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/008.nsf/eng/02934.html#footnote9

[7] Minister of Industry Jim Prentice, Minister of International Trade David Emerson, Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day, and Minister of Justice and Attorney General Rob Nicholson. The ministers were responding to the two federal government committees examining counterfeiting and piracy problems in Canada. They stated that the government was “committed to the importance of providing a robust framework for intellectual property rights … to foster an environment conducive to innovation, in an effort to further attract investment and high paying jobs to this country’s growing knowledge-based economy.” They also stated that the “Government … is working towards bringing Canada’s copyright regime into conformity with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet Treaties.”

[8] The Seoul Declaration for the Future of the Internet Economy, June 18,2008. When Canada signed the declaration it agreed to “[e]nsure respect for intellectual property rights” and committed to “[c]ombine efforts to combat digital piracy with innovative approaches which provide creators and rights holders with incentives to create and disseminate works in a manner that is beneficial to creators, users and our economies as a whole.” See also Joint Statement by North American Leaders, August 10,2009: “We will cooperate in the protection of intellectual property rights to facilitate the development of innovative economies.”

[9] See http://www2.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Documents/ThroneSpeech/37-1-e.html; October16, 2007,http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Documents/ThroneSpeech/39-2-e.html; November 18, 2008,http://www.sft-ddt.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=1364, March 3, 2010 http://www.speech.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=1388

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