The Canadian copyright consultation has launched with a site that offers Canadians several ways to ensure that their voices are heard. As expected, there is a direct submission process, an online discussion forum, and a calendar that includes information on roundtables (by invitation only) and public town halls (the public can register for the town halls to be held in Montreal and Toronto). The site features an RSS feed, there will be audio/video transcripts of the roundtables, and there is even an official twitter feed.
The consultation features five key questions:
- How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you? How should existing laws be modernized?
- Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time?
- What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?
- What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?
- What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?
In a nutshell, the government is asking Canadians to describe why copyright matters, how to ensure that reforms remain relevant, and what reforms would best foster innovation, creativity, and competition.
There has been some criticism over the past week about perceived "A" lists for those invited to roundtables and those excluded. My view is that the only list that really matters is the list of people who take the time to make a public submission. That process is open to everyone and this is the ideal opportunity to ensure that Canadians voices are heard. The government has not consulted on copyright since 2001 and this consultation represents both a crucial opportunity and a potential threat. While Canadians can ensure that the government understands that copyright matters and that a balance is needed, some groups will undoubtedly use the consultation to push for a return of Bill C-61. Indeed, the recording industry has already said that that bill did not go far enough. That means we could see pressure for a Canadian DMCA, a three-strikes and you're out process, and the extension of the term of copyright to eat into the public domain.
Countering those calls will require broad participation. To help foster that participation, tomorrow I will be launching a new website geared specifically to the copyright consultation along with my short form response to these questions. I plan to blog a long form response throughout the summer.
Michael Geist is a law professor and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa.