The International Intellectual Property Alliance is also seeking changes to Canada

Lobby wants Canada kept on U.S. piracy watch list

A powerful copyright lobby group wants Canada kept in a United States watch list of nations with intellectual property laws that are deemed of concern to the U.S. and is also recommending sweeping changes to Bill C-11, otherwise known as Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), an umbrella organization of entertainment software lobby groups, wants the Office of the United States Trade Representative to move Canada from the agency’s Priority Watch List in its Special 301 Report to its Watch List.  The 301 Report is an annual account that list countries judged to have inadequate intellectual property (IP) laws and may thus be subjected to sanctions.

The IIPA also said Bill C-11, which was enacted in June last year has “changed the country’s reputation as a haven for technologically sophisticated international piracy operators” but said it needed some tweaking to provided better legal tools for enforcement agencies. Bill C-11 was tabled by the Conservative government back in September 2011 and was put in force November 2012.

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“The new act falls well short of providing adequate legal incentives to the inter-industry cooperation that would be needed to reduce the exceptionally high levels at which Canadians patronize illicit online sources for creative works,” the IIPA statement said. “Beyond these long standing concerns that have not been addressed, the Copyright Modernization Act also added new one in the form of a host of potentially problematic new or expanded expansion to copyright protection.”
The group’s action was called “shameful” by Micahel Geist, University of Ottawa, Internet law professor and online privacy proponent.
“I think the IIPA is seeking to undo what Parliament itself passed after extensive consultation and an effort to strike a balance,” he said. “It is shameful to see these groups seeking to rollback those changes with the ink barely dry on the legislation.”
Geist, however said he was not surprised by the recommendation. “Th eU.S. lobby groups, particularly the music, movie and entertainment software associations, are committed to pressuring most countries around the world to reform their copyright laws,” he said. “In many instances, they recommend to go beyond what is even found in the U.S.”
Among the issues targeted by the IIPA’s recommendation is Bill C-11’s statutory exception to copyright infringement of “fair dealing.” Fair dealing covers copying of works for research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review and news reporting as well as the creation of non-commercial user-generated content.

The lobby group also said new limits to statutory damages that range from $100 – $5,000 for infringement carried out by a defendant for non-commercial purposes is not enough to provide a compelling deterrent to “large scale infringers.”

At least one free and open source software advocate said IIPA’s recommendations only aim to water down the “already weak fair dealing provisions” of Bill C-11.

“Bill C-11 already offer consumers far too little protection under its fair dealings provisions but IIPA wants to further weaken this aspect of the bill,” said Russell McOrmond, a systems administrator and software developer at Canadiana.org and policy coordination for CLUE (Canada’s Association for Free/Libre and Open Source Software).

He also said the damages cap is important because it protects Canadians against some of the more aggressive lawsuits seen in the U.S. where some music downloaders are fined enormous amounts of money. In one such case a woman from Minnesota was ordered to pay $1.92 million for downloading songs from free online sharing site Kazaa in 2007.

“The lobby group also wants to strengthen the position of corporations by seeking the remove the cap on statutory damages that companies can collect in copyright infringement cases,” McOrmond said. “By seeking a removal of the cap, the group is signaling that it is going after teenagers, mothers and grandmothers who are downloading songs piecemeal.”
Geist said the U.S. government is will follow the IIPA recommendation because it “often seems to operate as an extension of these lobby groups.”
“But I see no impact on Canadian consumers and businesses,” he said. “The watch list is simply a bullying tactic with no legal consequences.”

Read the IIPA recommendation here

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