Copyright reform bill critics eye victory
A controversial bill that seeks to reform Canadian copyright laws, expected to be introduced early this week, may be quashed after a groundswell of opposition erupted over the past week.
The government last week filed a notice indicating the bill would be introduced this week,leading industry experts to expect it to happen on Tuesday. But a spokesperson for Industry MinisterJim Prentice, who was to introduce the bill, said it would not happen on Tuesday and could not say if it would happen this week.
The House of Commons will take a break until January after Friday's session.
Cory Doctorow, co-editor of influential technology blog Boing Boing and a former director of the Electronic Freedom Foundation advocacy, on Monday wrote that the government's plan is now in disarray.
"Word is that the minister had no ideathat this would be such a big deal for Canadians," he wrote."Word is that the minister and his advisers are scrambling, rethinking the entire matter because of the public outcry."
At an open house in his Calgary constituency office on Saturday, Prenticedefended the bill to an angry crowd of about 50by saying it would bring Canada up to date with the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty it signed in 1997. Canada signed the treaty but has not yet implemented or ratified it, whichhas provokedcriticismfrom its trading partners, he said.
Critics have said the proposed legislation will mirror the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act and take a hard line against the copying of digital materials, making illegal acts such as the television time shifting enabled by digital video recorders, file-sharing of music and video files, and copying files to DVDs or MP3 players.
Michael Geist, the Canada research chair of internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, has led the charge against the bill and has accused Prentice of caving in to lobbying from U.S. entertainment companies, who are seeking to curtail digital copying in all its forms. He has also accused the ministerof ignoring the wishes of regular Canadians and for not including the public in his consultations.
Geist started a Facebook group to protest the bill a week ago, which more than 12,000 people have so far joined. On his blog Monday, Geist wrote that the group has resulted in hundreds of letters and phone calls to Prentice and other MPs from every political party.
"Something exceptional happened this past week.Fair copyright in Canada found its voice," Geist wrote."It will be silent no more."
The previous Liberal government tried to pass its own contentious copyright reform bill, C-60, in 2005 but it was quashed when the opposition brought down the minority government in a no-confidence vote.
Doctorow said the public would continue opposing bills that strengthen the rights of copyright holders at the expense of the people.
"We will do it a third time, a fourth, a fifth, and forever, until Canada's politicians start drafting balanced copyright laws that protect Canadian artists, scholars, critics, schools, libraries and the public interest," he wrote.