An unprecedented show of opposition from Canadians may have delayed the rumoured copyright reform bill from being introduced in Parliament, according to industry activists.
Contrary to what was expected by many Parliamentary observers, Industry Minister Jim Prentice said in the House of Commons Monday that the “bill would not be tabled in the House until such time as myself and the minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Office Languages are satisfied.”
This admission came after Timmins-James Bay NDP MP Charlie Angus accused the minister of “rolling out the red carpet for corporate lobbyists and the U.S. ambassador” for his consideration of tabling an unbalanced piece of legislation. Angus also chastised the minister for refusing to meet with universities, consumer groups, artists, and Canadians on the issue.
Because of the lack of consultation, Michael Geist, research chair of Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, took matters into his own hands last week by starting a digital awareness campaign last week on both Facebook and YouTube. In the one week since its launch, his Fair Copyright Facebook group has amassed over 15,000 members. Geist was surprised at the bill’s delay and attributes to the massive public outcry from Canadian bloggers and Internet users.
“What we’ve seen over the last ten days is perhaps somewhat unprecedented in the size and speed on which the Canadian public has found its voice on balanced copyright,” Geist said. “We have seen how this issue matters to Canadians before, but the sheer numbers of this was unprecedented. At the same time though, so too was the legislation that was about to be introduced.”
And while certainly nothing like it has been seen in Canada before, the proposed bill had been compared to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The comparisons stem from rumours that it included anti-circumvention provisions for technical provision measures (TPMs), a tool used to restrict the use of a digital work, which would make it illegal to modify, improve, back-up or make products that interact with any devices fitted with TPMs.
“The only people who like this bill are American companies who basically see this as an opportunity to overrule Parliament,” Cory Doctorow, former director of the San Francisco-based Electronic Freedom Foundation group and co-editor of tech blog Boing Boing, said. “If Parliament passes a law that says you’re allowed to copy a video to watch it later, that law goes away the minute there’s some technology that prevents you from doing it. So, it’s not surprising that American companies would support something that allows them to have this business model without all that pesky intervention from Canada’s government.”