Technology & Science

Ottawa denies altering copyright submissions

Industry Canada has dismissed allegations that it is altering submissions from the public to its website on the current copyright reform consultations.

Industry Canada has dismissed allegations that it is altering submissions from the public to its website on the current copyright reform consultations.

The government ministry has sent a letter to Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa professor who is closely tracking the consultations, that counters some of the allegations he made on his blog Thursday.

"I read with some disappointment the allegations posted [on] your blog that you think the government could be altering submissions to our site," wrote Darren Cunningham, director of communications for Industry Minister Tony Clement. "I can assure you and anyone who reads your blog the suggestion is patently false."

Geist said Industry Canada was not posting hundreds of letters written by Canadians and submitted through the website of the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights, a group that is following the consultations. Individuals who modified the CCER's form letter, or who wrote their own opinions and submitted them through the group's website, simply had their names added to one letter representing the organization.

Not posting those modified and individual letters to the copyright consultation website is tantamount to altering the views of the authors, Geist said.

Some people who wrote individual letters did get their submissions posted after complaining to Industry Canada, but Geist said that was not a fair way to deal with the issue.

Cunningham said form letters will only be posted once on the website to avoid having the same letter appearing hundreds of times. Industry Canada has received more than 4,200 submissions so far, with some days seeing more than 500 letters come in, he said.

"It is possible that human error may have occurred. We are happy to address any mistakes that are brought to our attention to ensure the integrity of the postings," Cunningham wrote in his letter. "Our goal is to make the site as user-friendly as possible. It is important that all views can be read and nothing inhibits that."

The countrywide public consultations, which began in Vancouver in July, are scheduled to wrap up in September. The government plans to use information gained from the sessions to craft new copyright reform legislation. On two previous attempts, the Conservatives were roundly criticized for failing to consult the public on what the new rules should be.

Several bloggers, including Geist, reported the general public was largely kept out of a big townhall meeting with Clement in Toronto on Thursday night, with representatives of the music industry taking up many of the seats.

"It was so over the top that their message was lost in light of such an obvious orchestrated attempt to stack the deck," he wrote.

Clement told CBC News his personal target for a new copyright bill was Dec. 11, but added that another potential federal election during the fall could scuttle that.