Canada’s copyright reform may be delayed by snap election

A Fall federal election would delay any copyright reform bill, but wouldn’t entirely derail the work done by the Conservative government’s public copyright consultation.

Dont’ miss our three-part video round table discussion on the copyright consultation:

The consultations are being overseen by Minister of Industry Tony Clement and Minister of Canadian Heritage James Moore.

Over the summer, there have been town halls and roundtable discussions held across the country as well as acceptance of written submissions and comments made to an online forum. The process will wrap-up Sept. 13 – too soon to be interrupted by any possible election calls.

The Conservatives have cited the copyright reform efforts as one reason why a snap election is undesirable. But most agree the consultation process would be recognized as a valued source of public input for any government that was reforming the law.

When asked if an election would affect the consultation, Deirdra McCracken, director of communications for Moore, responded by quoting the Minister’s remarks from a town hall hosted in Montreal July 30.

“It would be irresponsible for the Opposition arties to launch us into an election campaign right now,” Moore said. “If the Liberals trigger an election, then the process would be stopped, and the Liberals would be held accountable for preventing our Government from moving ahead with a modernization of the copyright legislation.”

Others involved in the copyright consultation were also concerned about an election interfering in legislation reform.

“Much ado about nothing, just like the last time unfortunately,” says Duncan McKie, president of the Canadian Independent Record Production Association (CIRPA). “Even if the same government comes back, it will be a bit of a set back for everybody.”

Bill C-61 was the last attempt by the Conservatives to reform Canada’s copyright legislation. It was met with criticism because of a lack of public consultation, and was eventually killed when the parliamentary session was abruptly cut short.

In a similiar manner, Bill C-60, the copyright reform bill introduced by the Liberal minority government in 2005 was killed by an election call.

Today, there is still a minority government in power and opposition parties are threatening to vote down the Conservatives. The Liberals have said they’ll bring forward a non-confidence motion at the earliest possible time, and the NDP say the onus is on the Conservatives to work out a deal to stay in power.

The copyright consultation was a good way to reach out and get some public input, says Charlie Angus, digital affairs spokesperson for the NDP.

He contrasted that with the run up to the introduction of Bill C-61, when “there was a lot of paranoia and suspicion about what was being done behind closed doors.”

Angus appreciates that there is “some public consultation” and says if an election is called, there’s no need for the consultation to go to waste. “I hope we haven’t come this far only to throw it out the window and start from scratch again. If there’s an election, we can pick up where we left off.”

The consultations haven’t been held without criticism. But overall, their progressed has been good enough to provide the raw materials that any political party could use to inform a new bill on copyright, says Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa.

“I don’t think the possible election has a huge impact on the timing,” he says. “We’re looking at 2010 [for a bill] anyway, based on what the Minister says.”

Geist refers to comments recorded on video by CBC’s Spark show. In the video, Clement opens the door for a bill to be introduced as late as next year.

“My personal target date was Dec. 11,” he says in the video. “But if it takes an extra couple of weeks or an extra couple of months to get the bill right, I’m also of that view too. So we have a target but we’re not even at the tough stuff yet when you have to draft and get something on paper.”

Others would like to see the government move more quickly, to solidify the process before a snap election is called.

“I’d like to see the government at least issue a paper of the key positions that were laid out,” Angus says.

CIRPA has no political preference, McKie says, they just want to move forward with copyright reform no matter what government takes shape.

“They’ve got enough input at this point, so whatever happens, they could proceed with a bill,” he says. “That would be true if it were a Liberal government too.”

Liberal industry critic Marc Garneau couldn’t be reached for comment. But his press secretary, Fabrice Rivault, says the Liberals will still pay attention to the public opinion collected during the consultations.

The party is waiting for a new bill to be drafted by Conservatives and brought to committee before it comments, he adds.

 

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