Copyright consultation launches: Time for Canadians to speak out

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:

  1. How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you? How should existing laws be modernized?
  2. Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time?
  3. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?
  4. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?
  5. 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.



Old Guy

Jul 20, 2009 at 3:33pm

How do I tell'em I will be affected because it'll make it harder to download movie torrents and game cracks?

Seriously 'tho, I do believe that written content should come into public domain 10 years after the author dies unless the author draws up a legal document willing the rights to a heir.

One has to watch where this is taking us... will the future allow me to sue if I'm caught in a crowd scene and the pic is shown in a newspaper and they don't give me a cut?
Will taking a cellphone pic of someone and posting it on Facebook be distributing without permission?
How about whistling a copyright tune in public?

It's really all about how many more people can line their pockets from an artists creation. Some of the 68 thousand+ lawyers in Canada will benefit handsomely from rewriting, defending and prosecuting new cases. The courts will be increasingly crowded. The artist won't make one cent more but the publishers and others that "own" the artists will.

Gern Blanston

Jul 20, 2009 at 5:22pm

Why should the copyright of works be able to fall to heirs, last past their deaths, or indeed last more then 10 years? The purpose of copyright is to foster creativity and innovation by providing a limited time through which an author can benefit on their work, then it goes to the public domain. The heirs are not contributing. I don't continue to get paid for my work after it has been created, just for the creation. My heirs don't get to profit from my work without having to do anything.

It boggles my mind how one set of individuals in public feel they should continue to be paid for their work well past the time of their doing. Everyone else has to keep working. We provide a limited time with which they can profit after which it belongs to the public. If they don't like it, then they can get a job where they only get paid once for their work like everyone else.