Copyright documentary illuminates the issue

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

With the Conservative government engaged in a power struggle with the Liberals and NDP, the furthest thing from anyone's mind on Parliament Hill these days is copyright reform. The issue, which has clearly been the biggest political hot potato of the year when it comes to technology, isn't likely to get much attention until the government drama is settled, whenever that may happen.

Still, that isn't stopping some of the most vocal opponents to the Conservatives' approach from pressing the battle. University of Ottawa internet law professor Michael Geist, the most outspoken proponent of a need for copyright reform that balances both holders' and consumers' rights, has put together a nifty 47-minute documentary on the subject.

The film, which is available in a variety of formats from Geist's website (including through BitTorrent - prepare to be throttled), includes interviews with a wide range of stakeholders, including science fiction author Karl Schroeder, Wide Mouth Mason drummer Safwan Javed, Nettwerk Records founder Terry McBride, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart and Canada's chief librarian Ian E. Wilson.

The film's central theme - the need for balanced copyright law - will be familiar to those who have followed the issue, but the interviews with various stakeholders do a great job in adding perspective to how Canadians would be affected by legislation that is too skewed to corporate interests. Artist Gordon Duggan, for example, talks about how Bill C-61 would effectively outlaw appropriation art, a long-established form that borrows elements from existing works to create new works.

Geist has released the film in conjunction with the one-year anniversary of his Fair Copyright for Canada group on Facebook. The group set an impressive precedent in Canada in that it was the first organized online protest to government legislation - thousands joined up within days of its launch and forced the government to back down on its proposed Bill C-61. The group now sits at a membership of more than 92,000.

One of the most interesting aspects of a Liberal-NDP coalition government would be whether the two parties address the issue of copyright reform, but also how. Both parties heartily condemned Bill C-61 when it was released this past summer.