Moore defends Canada's 'different path' on copyright bill

Heritage Minister James Moore says Canada's copyright legislation is taking a very different path from a controversial U.S. piracy bill that drew widespread protests.

Minister says creative industries can manage how digital locks are used to battle piracy

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore says Canada's copyright legislation is taking a very different path from controversial U.S. legislation that drew widespread protests. The bill moves to a special committee Thursday and is expected to be back in the House of Commons in April. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Canada’s copyright legislation is taking a very different path from controversial U.S. legislation that drew widespread protests, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore said Wednesday.

In an interview with CBC News the week a special committee set up its schedule for examining the bill, Moore said the government has rejected the aggressive approach the American government tried to take with the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Observers have said they’re not opposed to much of bill C-11, the act to amend the copyright act, but they fear lobbying could convince the Canadian government to take a more aggressive approach.

"This is a very different path," Moore said, pointing out each country has different consumer and cultural pressures affecting its legislation. "We’ve rejected the American style approaches on massive parts of our legislation."

"SOPA was about an international pursuit of piracy with pretty aggressive means that our government is not considering in our copyright bill."

One example, he said, is that the Canadian legislation would bring in "notice and notice," where an internet provider would notify rights infringers on behalf of the content creator. The U.S. bill has "notice and takedown," where a creator complains and the service automatically removes the content.

Concern limited to digital locks

Steve Anderson, spokesman for Openmedia.ca, which advocates for open and affordable internet access, says the group is satisfied with much of the legislation, but is concerned about the digital locks provisions.

The legislation allows for content owners to copy from one device to another, but makes it illegal to break a digital lock if the content creator has used one.

"That just prevents people from accessing their own services and from accessing legal content," Anderson said.

"It’s a really easy change for them to make, which is basically just allowing Canadians to remove digital locks, to circumvent digital locks, when they’re accessing content legally. I think that’s a pretty common sense thing to allow."

NDP MP Charlie Angus, the party's critic on copyright and digital issues, says there are major problems with the bill, and he wants to hear from artists and consumer groups.

"The digital lock provisions are very problematic. They will interfere not just with the legal rights of Canadians but will interfere with the ability of education, of digital development," Angus said. 

Moore said despite the criticism, nobody has offered an amendment for the digital locks provision. He said it’s up to the creative industries to decide how they want to handle the locks.

"I think the market forces on this are working. As you know in the music industry there are very few digital locks," he said, although the video gaming industry uses them more.

"These kinds of market forces are working and we want the government to allow those market forces to work. But we do believe that those who want to protect what it is that they’ve invested in should be able to protect it from those who want to hack and steal from them."

The legislation provides for reconsideration after five years. So, Moore said, if MPs aren’t happy with how the legislation works in practice, Parliament can take another look at it.

A special committee set up to examine the legislation is meeting Thursday to determine a preliminary list of witnesses to invite. MPs have agreed to examine the bill clause-by-clause by March 14 and end the study by March 29 to report back to the House of Commons.

With the week of Feb. 20 a break week for Parliament that means there are just 2½ weeks to study the legislation.