Elizabeth May and Griffin Carpenter: Canada needs principled approach to copyright

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      By Elizabeth May and Griffin Carpenter

      As the federal government’s copyright consultations roll through the summer, with more and more perspectives being added to the mix, one wonders how ministers Tony Clement and James Moore plan to take this process from the consultation phase to the construction of public policy.

      Certainly, the fact that these consultations are being held is a small victory for those wishing to move forward on copyright reform. One of the most leveled criticisms of Ottawa’s earlier attempt at a copyright bill, Bill C-61, was that there was a lack of stakeholder input.

      Still, while giving credit where credit is due, these consultations must move beyond rhetoric and division. In a July 27 op-ed, “Will the Conservatives get the message on copyright reform?”, NDP critic for digital issues Charlie Angus correctly notes many of the pitfalls of Bill C-61 and suggests a balance between creators and users is needed in the digital age.

      Indeed, the time has come to move beyond commonly repeated rhetoric that either inaccurately describes so-called pirates who “steal” media or else falsely advocates for free copyright and performance-based business models. The issue of copyright extends much farther than this rhetoric and deserves focused attention. In fact, even distinctions between creators and users fail to reflect an accurate picture of the nature of innovation. In the digital age of blogs and remixes, the lines between creators and users have become even more blurred.

      Thus far, no political party has offered a positive vision on copyright. Such a vision must reflect simple truths. Information-sharing technologies are here to stay. These technologies are beneficial to all sectors of the economy. A thriving information commons is one that yields sustainable artistic innovation.

      From these truths a principled approach to copyright emerges:

      • User rights must be defined and extended through a flexible fair-dealing mechanism;
      • Current laws on Crown copyright and public domain must be reformed to build a healthy information commons; and
      • Protection and compensation for creators must be ensured through a statutory-damages provision based on reasonably demonstrated loss.

      Indeed, for the Greens, this principled approach to copyright is not an isolated issue but part of our vision. As we work to reduce our environmental footprint without sacrificing jobs or income, economic development must occur in knowledge-based areas. A healthy green economy requires fair treatment of both creators and users, fostering their ability to interact and build on each other’s contributions. It is important that public policy generated from these consultations does not stifle creativity through excessive restrictions nor render it unprofitable through lack of protections.

      What is at stake during these consultations is the very manner in which the future economy and culture of arts operates. If we want this information age to function appropriately, copyright law must have future generations of creators and users in mind. The absence of these groups at the consultation means it is time to shed divisive rhetoric and work towards a principled approach to copyright.

      Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party of Canada.

      Griffin Carpenter is the party’s youth and education critic.




      Aug 13, 2009 at 5:18pm

      Congratulations Ms May... on being more vague then Jim Prentice when he introduced the one-sided copyright Bill C-61. You have only stated the obvious here and have not taken a clear position on the matter. Last election I voted for a member of your party and sadly he is not even running anymore. Unlike you Ms May, the member I voted for was happy to give his full position on copyright reform. I question your ability at this point to even form a concise platform on copy"right" when all you are doing is reiterating the most obvious points presented by academics with first hand experience and knowledge in this area. I have in the past hijacked internet polls to be in YOUR favor out of pity. Now I regret doing so, as you cant even understand what it takes to live as a new era technology student. Im voting Pirate Party.

      Griffin Carpenter

      Aug 13, 2009 at 10:26pm

      While I appreciate your comment, screenshot, I feel obliged to respond as it seems we're addressing different aspects of copyright reform. This article outlines an approach to discussing copyright in its entirety as opposed to any particular aspect of copyright policy. The distinction is an important one to make because at this stage in the consultations, approach is of the utmost importance.

      Thus far, the development of copyright policy is Canada has been a heated exchange between entrenched camps with seemingly irreconcilable positions. The consultations have proven to be no exception. What the Green Party is advocating is that these consultations are an excellent time for Canadians to think about and discuss exactly what principles copyright law should be built upon, and from which more technical aspects of copyright law can be composed.

      Instead of the approach to the consultations it seems that your interest is with policy positions. There should be no doubt that the Green Party supports fair copyright reform. Vision Green, the party's policy document, calls for "supporting the principles of fair use, consumer information privacy, communications market competition, and rationalization of the statutory damages provision." Also, while you may find that you align with the Pirate Party, it is important to note that the first elected Pirate Party Member of European Parliament has now joined the Green Group due to overlapping policy positions and overall vision. This decision was celebrated* by the Green Party here in Canada because there are clear ties between an environmental mandate and ease of information flow, as noted in the article.
      Before you change your vote I think it’s important to note the distinction between approach and outcome.



      Aug 14, 2009 at 3:37pm

      Regarding the sentence ".. the first elected Pirate Party Member of European Parliament has now joined the Green Group ..." , it may sound like he switched parties, but he didn't. His national party remains the Swedish Pirate Party. But at the European level, there is no Europe-wide Pirate Party (yet). There is the "Green-EFA" group, which consists of the European Green Party, the European Free Alliance Party (representing regional progressive parties in stateless nations like Scotland, Wales, Basque, Corsica, etc.), and some other members who are not associated with any European party. The Swedish Pirate Party member is in the Green-EFA group, but is one of those members associated with neither the Green Party nor the Free Alliance. We should perhaps wonder why he joined the Green-EFA group, but not the European Green Party.

      While the Green Party of Canada may support certain things such as the elimination of patent, and the restoration of copyright back to its original design, beyond this page I haven't really seen anyone from the Green Party talking to anyone but the Pirate Party about this. To me, this just seems like one small party trying to kill off a new one before it gets started and becomes a threat, rather than a genuine belief in these things. I need to be convinced, and that means I want to see faces on the TV talking about this, before the Harper party rams through their gift to big copyright.

      My vote next election (please let it be soon) will be based entirely on the actual people running in my riding. Unless a larger party make some dramatic change, I will vote either Green or Pirate based on the strength of the individual on copyright, environment, legalization, equality, and other progressive issues. The large parties lost my vote long ago. I believe the only wasted vote is a vote you don't really believe in.


      Aug 14, 2009 at 7:21pm

      Griffin Carpenter I appreciate your reply, however I feel obligated to let you know what a real copyright piece looks like. I'll use an ex-member of your parties response to my questions about copyright pre-election october 2008 as an example. I understand this is more or less lifted from vision green (which i promoted on a website for you), but strangely you did not reference any of this in your article. Which immediately left me questioning what has changed.
      "It is imperative that reforms of the copyright act respect the balance of granting privilege to the creators of intellectual works with the needs of the public to interact with, critique and enjoy these works. The Green Party recognizes that these interests are not always antagonistic: creators of intellectual property can, and have, benefited from controlled and well articulated levels of fluency with the public domain. Copyright legislation needs to be progressive in embracing technological evolution and permitting consumers to continue to exercise their fair dealing rights. Implementing the WCT is not an effective way to protect and stimulate our cultural institutions.

      Copyright legislation must evolve with the culture it is protecting, and the rapid evolution in technology has made it pertinent to revisit today. Tantamount to reforming copyright legislation is protecting the interests of Canadian producers and consumers of intellectual property. Responsible and reciprocal treatment of our international partners will follow from clearly defining our domestic interests.

      In order to achieve these objectives the Green Party of Canada will:
      - Oppose ratification of the WCT, recognizing both their imprecise definition of obligations and their incongruence with fair dealing;
      - Establish a copyright registry that will facilitate tracking and protecting of copyrights where registration is optional for the original author, but mandatory upon the transfer of ownership or death of the author;
      - Remove the Levy on Blank Audio Recording Media and replace it with private copying exemptions;
      - Introduce a formal notice-and-notice mechanism for dealing with copyright infringement online, thereby affirming common carrier status for Internet Service Providers (ISPs);
      - Renounce the Crown Copyright applied to all government produced documents, thereby immediately releasing them into the public domain;
      - Hold consultations with music and movie industry artists, producers and distributors along with citizen's assemblies to address the issues of online peer-to-peer networks. "


      This is how your article should have appeared IMHO. Be specific or go home.

      Also Straight.com has flaws in their website the same as DRM. The way I discovered them was similar to solving a math equation. This is how DRM is usually broken. $20,000 fine for being more intelligent than the code creator.. does that sound right to you? Im unemployed and 21 years old. I can spin the hole issue into hilarity if need be. The entire pro-copyright arguments for notice on notice, graduated response, DRM protections, and extended copyright protections can be nerfed so easily and yet you produced this vague article. If you cant see the hypocrisy in this then you are in no position to be writing articles to Canadians on behalf of any party.

      Griffin Carpenter

      Aug 16, 2009 at 9:05pm

      screenshot, the adversarial tone in your response seems rather inaccurate as far from criticizing the policy stances of the Green Party you have offered your support. As I mentioned in my response to your first comment, what we have is a difference of approach. You wanted to see an article on policy stances while I wanted to create a framework that could have shape the discussion on the development of Canadian copyright. As the copyright consultations have largely been a clash of entrenched camps, there is great value in developing a new approach. You note that many of the “pro-copyright” arguments are invalid, but the spirit of consultations is one of engagement and understanding of perspectives.

      While those actively following the copyright consultations may have a certain wish list of policy stances they would like to see in a Green Party op-ed, the idea with this op-ed was to take a step back and see if we cannot bridge some divides in the discussions by asking the underlying philosophical questions. What does a creative society look like? What constitutes unique work? What is the idea behind public domain? Before we answer "how" it is important to first answer "what".


      May 10, 2010 at 12:26pm

      what is your vision for canada

      John Walker

      Dec 28, 2010 at 4:08pm

      Griffin Carpenter - its all very nice but could you/greens be a little less abstract - in law the devil is always in the dteail, no?