Feds push off copyright reform bill until next year

Industry Canada’s impending copyright reform bill, which was rumoured to be tabled this week, won’t appear until at least next year.

The bill, entitled “An Act to amend the Copyright Act,” had been listed as an order of business in the House of Commons Thursday and was widely speculated to be introduced. However, the government decided to hold off on the bill, as no new government bills were tabled in the House.

“The Industry Minister’s press secretary has advised journalists that the bill will not be introduced today or tomorrow,” Geist, research chair of Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, wrote Thursday morning on his personal blog. “Since the House of Commons will break at the end of the week, the Canadian DMCA will not be introduced until at least late January.”

Industry Minister Jim Prentice had said earlier this week 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.” But industry experts such as Geist had reported the bill would forge ahead before the end of the week. The House will take its winter break after this Friday’s session.

Given the change of events, Geist said that the Industry Minister now has a golden opportunity to listen to Canadians and create a fair copyright bill.

“He has an opportunity to brush aside the momentary embarrassment of the delays and instead work toward a genuine copyright balance by reaching out to all Canadians,” Geist wrote in his blog. “As astonishing number of people have voiced their concern over the past two weeks and the government seems to have listened. Now it must act by openly consulting and engaging with a country that genuinely cares about copyright.”

Because of what Geist deemed as a lack of consultation, the professor took matters into his own hands earlier this month by starting a digital awareness campaign last week on both Facebook and YouTube. In just over one week since its launch, his Fair Copyright Facebook group has amassed over 20,000 members.

“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 told ComputerWorld Canada earlier this week. “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.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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