Copyright Reform

Experts predict that sweeping changes to our current copyright system will be tabled in Parliament sometime next month.  With mounting pressure from the United States, it is likely that the current effort will bring about actual legislation this time – a fate different that that of Bill C-61 and its predecessors.


Earlier reform proposals were coupled with some of the broadest public consultations in recent memory.  Advocates of a US Digital Millennium Copyright Act style bill were met with fierce opposition (which in today’s parlance usually means a very active Facebook group and an e-mail campaign or two).  Despite that, there are suggestions that the new bill will mimic the bill C-61 proposal.  For his part, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore has warned people not to criticize the bill until they read it…


As a refresher, C-61 purported to support rights-owners with tools such as Digital Rights Management, and rejected a flexible fair dealing approach.  As well, the bill contained tough anti-circumvention measures and opposed time shifting and format shifting provisions.  Many criticized the measures as anti-consumer, and even a significant portion of the rights holder and business communities have begun to change their stance on DRM in recent years.


Even the rhetoric that has precipitated the pressure to reform the Copyright Act has started to weaken.  Recent reports from the Business Software Alliance have confirmed that Canada has one of the lowest piracy rates in the world, contrary to stereotypes of Canada as a haven for copyright pirates.


There are certainly a variety of positions on the issues presented with copyright reform, and any proposal will have a significant impact on many of my clients.  Whether the ultimate reforms are pro rights holder or pro consumer, the biggest impact will result from the mode of the changes.  With that in mind, I will be keeping a close eye on the developments and will keep you updated as the process moves forward. 


For your part, if you are interested, please get involved in the process.  Contact your local MP – and for those who really want to get politically active, the Facebook group is here.


Scott R. Young