Heritage minister rakes copyright bill critics

Heritage Minister James Moore says opponents of the copyright legislation he tabled in May are "absolutists" and "radical extremists."

Heritage Minister James Moore says opponents of the copyright legislation he tabled in May are "absolutists" and "radical extremists."

His remarks, made in a speech to international business conference on piracy and counterfeiting in Toronto on Tuesday, angered University of Ottawa copyright expert Michael Geist, who considers himself a target of Moore's remarks.

In his speech, Moore hailed the "balance" of commercial and consumer interests achieved in Bill C-32.

"The only people who are opposed to this legislation are really two groups of radical extremists," he said. "In the continuum of political ideology, if you go really extreme to the right or really extreme to the left, it actually swings back around." 

Geist, a frequent media commentator and columnist who has criticized C-32 mainly over its new measures for protection of digital locks, says one of Moore's comments dismissing the concerns of experts appear to be directed at him.

"These people out there who pretend to be experts, who the media all cite, they don't believe in copyright reform whatsoever," Moore said in comments after the speech that were posted online.

"They will find any excuse to oppose this bill, to drum up fear, to mislead, to misdirect and to push people in the wrong direction and to undermine what has been a year-long comprehensive effort to get something right."

Moore also decried "those absolutists out there … who are babyish in their approach to copyright legislation, who think that any idea of copyright reform will be an attack on individual citizens."

Artist and consumer groups have called for more consultation on the copyright legislation, saying the digital lock provisions are too strong and will hamper both research and the consumer's right to transfer a work from one medium to another.

Another point of contention is fair dealing, or using parts of a work for parody, illustration or education.

Moore said an all-party legislative committee would be working to get the bill through this year. He emphasized that copyright reform is long overdue and necessary to bring Canada in line with its trading partners.

He urged guests at the business forum to push back against those who oppose the bill.

"When they speak, they need to be confronted, if it's on Facebook, if it's Twitter, if it's on a talk show, in a newspaper, confront them and tell them they are wrong," Moore said.

In a blog post Wednesday, Geist questioned Moore's approach to Canadians who want to reopen provisions of C-32 dealing with digital locks and with fair dealing.

"To hear the minister of Canadian Heritage both discredit the views of so many people and to encourage confrontation as the optimal plan of action is incredibly discouraging," he wrote.

"I see few people who are 'absolutists' out there — most want a fair approach but may disagree on precisely where to strike the balance on issues such as digital locks or fair dealing."