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A stop sign is seen near Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (BLAIR GABLE/Blair Gable/Reuter)
A stop sign is seen near Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (BLAIR GABLE/Blair Gable/Reuter)

Last chance for copyright extremists to warp Bill C-11 Add to ...

Things are rapidly coming to head with the fourth effort to revamp copyright law in Canada in the last seven years (Copyright Modernization Act, Bill C-11).

The bill itself has numerous elements that are not bad as currently written (no term extension for copyright holders, a very limited role for ISPs, search engines and others as “digital gatekeepers,” an innovative user created content add-on to fair dealing, etc.), but deeply troubling aspects as well (the digital locks provisions, notably). While the bill has passed second reading and finished committee review last week (March 7), during the latter stage the “copyright maximalists” lined up one after another in a last-ditch push to convince MPs that the bill needs to be radically overhauled and stuffed with all sorts of provisions that have thus far been rejected.

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The bill is now with Parliament for a clause-by-clause reading and while there’s still third reading and Senate review to pass, there may still be 11th-hour attempts by a few lobbyists to rewrite the bill.

What kind of provisions, you no doubt ask? Here’s just a partial list, culled mostly from the music and gaming industry lobbyists and like-minded legal advisors (see here and here):

  1. Tough rules that could require intermediaries from ISPs through to search engines (e.g. Google), social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Digg, Twitter) and data/web hosting sites (e.g. BlackSun and other “cloud” providers) to block access to websites and others alleged to enable copyright infringement.
  2. The substitution of a "notice and take-down" as well as the graduated response regime that would see ISPs disconnect subscribers accused of repeated copyright infringement instead of the much less intrusive "notice-and-notice" regime already included in the bill and practiced as a matter of course by all of Canada’s major ISPs.
  3. Claw backs to the innovative user-generated content (UGC) clause of the act that allows people to make mashups and remixes for non-commercial uses.
  4. Copyright term extension from lifetime of the creator plus 50 years to life plus 70 years.

The chances of any of these things being adopted is uncertain, but it needs to be stated clearly that any attempt to stuff the bill full of SOPA-like provisions is a non-starter. For those not in the know, SOPA stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act in the U.S. that gained so much notoriety earlier this year that its backers finally put a stake through its heart, at least for the time being. But that was only after an extraordinary outcry against the bill and after Wikipedia, Firefox, Google and thousands of other sites went black for a day on January 18th, 2012.

SOPA would have required: (1) ISPs to block access to ‘rogue websites’, (2) search engines to make such sites disappear from their results and (3) payment providers like Paypal and Visa cut-off payments, etc. Such activities would constitute the fundamental remaking of the Internet contemplated unleashed a firestorm of protest, in the U.S. and globally, ultimately leading to a tactical withdrawal of SOPA. Yet as SOPA was being withdrawn in the US, the copyright maximalists here in Canada were on a roll and began pushing what looks like much of the same thing.

The first indication of this can be seen in the language used, with the copyright maximalists such as Barry Sookman, James Gannon, the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (p. 6) and the Canadian Federation of Musicians carving up the world into “good guys” and “bad guys,” backed by repeated references to “wealth destroyers.” This stuff is imported directly from copyright maximalists such as Daniel Castro from the supposedly “non-partisan” Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) who referred to “parasites,” “rogues” and “leeches” to make his case for the “mother of SOPA” early last year.

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