Copyright consultations launch in Vancouver

Canadians are getting a new chance to say what updated copyright legislation concerning music, movies, software and other media should look like.

Canadians are getting a new chance to say what updated copyright legislation concerning music, movies, software and other media should look like.

Questions being asked by the government in the online consultation

1. How do Canada’s copyright laws affect you? How should existing laws be modernized?

2. Based on Canadian values and interests, how should copyright changes be made in order to withstand the test of time?

3. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster innovation and creativity in Canada?

4. What sorts of copyright changes do you believe would best foster competition and investment in Canada?

5. What kinds of changes would best position Canada as a leader in the global, digital economy?

"We all know that new technologies are changing the landscape and that Canadian copyright laws need to be updated," said Heritage Minister James Moore in a statement on Monday marking the launch in Vancouver of a series of public consultations — the first such consultations since 2001.

Not only will such laws will affect the music people download and the TV shows they watch on devices such as laptops and smartphones, but also the materials used to educate children and expand our knowledge base, as well as how we value creativity, said Industry Minister Tony Clement.

He added in a statement that the consultations will help the government draft "new, flexible legislation" to help Canada "regain its place on the cutting edge of the digital economy."

Modern copyright legislation is essential to allowing activities such as e-commerce, democracy and creativity to happen online, he added.

"What we're grappling with is how to have a law that makes sense for today but can also be anticipatory of how things can evolve in the future as well."

Next round table in Calgary on Tuesday

The consultations will run until Sept. 13 and will include:

  • Round-table discussions across the country with experts and organizations that will be posted as audio and video online.
  • An online discussion forum and Twitter site.
  • Online forms that people can use to submit detailed suggestions.
  • Webcast town hall meetings in Toronto and Montreal.

The first round-table discussion on Monday in Vancouver included academics and museum staff as well as representatives from the video game, software, television, music, movie and magazine industries, Moore said.

Clement added that a key theme was achieving the right balance for authors and artists — people who enable creativity — and for consumers.

Another round table will take place Tuesday in Calgary, followed by others in Gatineau and Montreal next week. Some dates have not yet been finalized, the ministers said.

The ministers were criticized at the media conference for not providing much information about the Vancouver round table ahead of time. However, they said everything is very new at the moment and more information will be forthcoming.

Previous bill died in 2008

Clement said that the technological landscape has already changed since the Conservative government's previous copyright reform legislation, Bill C-61, was introduced last year and it seemed like public consultations were "generally something that people were perceived as wanting last time."

That bill died on the order paper last year when the federal election was called. Since then, the Conservative government has insisted it would reintroduce legislation to amend Canada's copyright laws in order to satisfy the country's obligations to the World Intellectual Property Organization, which it signed on to in 1997.

Groups representing copyright holders, such as the Canadian Recording Industry Association and the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, praised Bill C-61, 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 CDs and other media.

Opposition parties, consumer 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.

Both Clement and Moore said in June they would consult Canadians this summer before introducing an update to copyright laws in the fall.