The copyright reform debate has been controversial since Conservative MPs James Moore and Tony Clement launched last summer’s copyright consultations process.

It’s often depicted as a divisive issue, pitting copyright owners and industry groups on one side pushing for stricter copyright enforcement and more protections against piracy versus consumer advocates who argue laws that are too strict could impede perfectly legitimate activities.

Brian Jackson, journalist
Brian Jackson

Moore, the Canadian heritage minister, and Clement, the industry minister, have been talking about striking a “balanced approach” since holding those consultations. But it’s proven to be a difficult thing to do, and the latest Bill C-32 continues to receive criticism from both sides.

Some complain that “notice and notice” isn’t a sharp enough stick to dissuade pirates from downloading content from torrent sites. Others say the digital locks protections are too powerful and trump other rights normally protected in the bill.

Perhaps without a clue as to how to actually strike the right balance between these two viewpoints, the ministers have instead been playing good cop, bad cop tactics.

Moore is the bad cop, as he demonstrated well this week with the most vociferous language used yet in this copyright debate. He decried his critics as “radicals and extremists” during a speech at the Toronto Board of Trade. He went on to imply certain critics were “not real experts” and in fact were engineering an underhanded campaign to rob Canadians of their intellectual property rights.

Moore may have been pandering to the business audience when he verbally slammed his critics, but he continued the tirade on to Twitter. He argued at length with Canadian sci-fi author and blogger Cory Doctorow about the issue, and denied his “radicals and extremists” comments in direct messages sent to Internet law professor Michael Geist.

“Not what I said. But enjoyed your misplaced anger.” Geist posted the message to his blog.

Meanwhile, Clement has played the good cop. He responded to a populist demand to be interviewed on TVO’s Search Engine podcast hosted by Jesse Brown. If not completely sympathetic to the case against digital locks, Clement was polite and civil throughout the entire discussion and provided hope the exceptions in Bill C-32 are more robust than expected.

While Moore is drawn into arguments on Twitter, Clement has welcomed feedback and debate on the bill.

“Clearly this is the most contentious piece of the Bill & will elicit much discussion & suggestions in the Fall. I look fwd to it,” he writes in one post.

“Hi! I love the constructive feedback on #C32. Keep it coming. This Bill will be a collaborative effort!” he says in another.

Good cop, bad cop is usually a gambit to encourage cooperation by creating fear of the bad cop and building trust with the good cop. But in this case, it may be an effort by the Conservative government to appear they favour both groups engaged in opposing sides of the debate over copyright reform. Moore riles up the business crowd, while Clement appeases the consumer critics.

Both MPs seem willing to hear what opposition parities have to say at the parliamentary committee that will debate the bill in the Fall. Let’s hope that ideas for a real balance are put forward there.

Then Moore and Clement won’t have to placate both sides, but achieve a genuine compromise.

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  • terance

    Great insightful post. better than what i’ve read so far on the topic

    this james moore is a piece of work though