The general mood of the House of Commons debate on C-32 thus far.

From watching and reading the transcripts of day 1 and day 2 of the debate on C-32 I notice a certain mood. While it is often claimed that Canada's copyright law is outdated and in critical need of modernization (See the C-32 FAQ for the truth), the level of the debate in the house could be confused for being the mid 1990's towards the passing of the Bill C-32 that passed in 1997. Every once in a while a brand name product that didn't exist in 1997 is mentioned, but otherwise the debate hasn't advanced much with parliamentarians.

(Please also read Meera Nair's article which discussed education and fair dealings).

The general statement is that creators deserve to be paid for their creativity, which we can all agree on. In the next sentences the MPs will then claim that making more activities into infringement, and ensuring that every activity that is currently an infringement remains an infringement, will allow creators to be paid more. This was the thinking in the 1980's and the 1990's, but is not very modern thinking.

Copyright is to creativity like water is to humans: too little and you dehydrate and die, too much and you drown and die. It is simply wrong to superficially believe that is "some" copyright is good, then "more" will be better.

Lets take the discussion about exceptions to copyright. Many MPs have suggested that C-32 takes money away from creators for activities where they were previously paid. The suggestion is that no activities should be exceptions, and that any activity that previously required permission should require permission today. In some cases they ignored the full spectrum of business models offered by copyright, and substituted the word payment for permission. Rent-seeking is not the only business model which copyright enables, and it would devastate the interests of many creators to think that it is.

There are several groupings of exceptions in C-32, which can be categorized into three groupings:


Follow-on creator focused exceptions
Obvious examples are the addition of parody and satire to the first step of the fair dealings exception. Creativity builds on the past, and sometimes you must limit the control of past creators in order for new creators to be able to create at all. These are provisions that all creators should be supportive of.

If you look closely at who is opposed, these are not people representing creators, but people representing collective societies. Collective societies want money to flow through them (and they get their often excessive cut) for any transactions involving creativity. This is to the great detriment of creators. This is true of those who wish to use rent-seeking behaviour for their creativity, as well as those whose creativity is motivated by non-rent-seeking behaviour that is incompatible with collective societies.

Exceptions that would be considered Fair Use in the USA
Canadians have been lied to for years with the suggestion that Canadian Copyright law is somehow "weaker" (meaning, less tilted in favour of incumbent copyright holders) than that of our trading partners such as the USA. Since time-shifting with a VCR or PVR is understood to be legal in the USA under their living Fair Use regime, Canadians incorrectly presume these activities are legal in Canada.

While Canada would be far better off to simply adopt a US-style Fair Use regime, there are a few narrow and excessively complex exceptions added as part of Bill C-32. I believe the complexity of these exceptions will induce infringement, but it is not like these changes will change behaviour of Canadians who already believed their activities were perfectly legitimate and legal.

The reality is that if these activities are not clearly legalised, it will make copyright less respectable. A law which Canadians believe is out of touch with reality will not be obeyed, and the less reasonable it is the more people will infringe in ways which actually harm the interests of creators.

In short, the lack of these exceptions would not mean new money to creators but new infringements and less money to creators!

In the USA they clearly have "teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use)" in their inclusive list of activities that might qualify as fair use. Bill C-32's addition of the far more limited "education" to the non-inclusive list should be non-controversial for creators who want less limitations, given the major push from a wide variety of stakeholders during the consultations for adopting US-style Fair Use in Canada. The government already sided with the position of collective societies, to the detriment of a vast majority of creators and other Canadians.

Exceptions that are focused on institutions, and seem more like a government program than copyright.

As I wrote in the C-32 FAQ, I consider education institutional exceptions to copyright to be a government program, paid for on the backs of copyright holders, masquerading as copyright. I believe these exceptions are harmful to creators and students, and in the long term are harmful to educational institutions.

When MPs were talking about potentially harmful exceptions to copyright, were they talking only about the education institutional exceptions, or were they talking about the first two categories which are of great benefit to creators? Have MPs been so actively lobbied by collective societies as to falsely believe that all limits and exceptions to copyright are harmful to creators?