Canadian copyright forums could begin next week

Canadians may get a chance to have their voices heard on the issue of copyright reform as soon as next week when the federal government launches a two-month public consultation, according to reports.

Canadians may get a chance to have their voices heard on the issue of copyright reform as soon as next week when the federal government launches a two-month public consultation, according to reports.

University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, who writes frequently about internet copyright issues, and the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic said late last week the consultation will launch on July 20 and run until Sept. 13.

Both Industry Minister Tony Clement and Heritage Minister James Moore said in June they would consult Canadians this summer before introducing an update to Canada's copyright laws in the fall. But Industry Canada spokesperson Pema Lhalungpa said no announcement has been made yet on when the consultations will begin.

The Conservatives' previous copyright-reform legislation, Bill C-61, died on the order paper last year when the federal election was called.

Groups representing copyright holders, such as the Canadian Recording Industry Association and the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, praised last year's bill, which proposed hefty fines for people caught downloading copyrighted materials and made it illegal for consumers to work around locks — known as digital rights management — placed on media.

But opposition parties, consumers groups and Canada's privacy commissioner criticized the bill as one-sided in favour of copyright holders and against consumers. The government also took heat from a number of groups for not consulting the public before announcing the legislation.

The Conservative government has been firm that it will reintroduce the legislation to update Canada's copyright laws in order to bring Canada in line with its obligations to the World Intellectual Property Organization, which it signed onto in 1997.

But Moore and Clement have been open about their plan to involve the public through roundtables across the country .

"We'll be coming to a city, town, village, pasture near you and talking about those issues with a view to getting on track with legislation this fall as well," Clement said in June during a speech at a conference in Ottawa on Canada's digital economy.

Geist said the new consultations would include "roundtable discussions in locations across the country, a webcast townhall, as well as an online discussion forum."