C-32 committee meeting 9 thoughts

While this was the first meeting of the C-32 special legislative committee in the new year, there wasn't much new in the discussion from the witnesses. The two sets of witnesses don't really like copyright, and they want to replace copyright with something different. While the first article that was written about my participation in this debate was given the headline “The anti-copyright crusader”, I think this fits in better for these witnesses than it does for me.

In the morning we had Alain Pineau (National Director, Canadian Conference of the Arts), Bill Freeman (chair, Creators Copyright Coalition), and Marvin Dolgay (Vice-Chair, Creators Copyright Coalition) who represented those who support collective societies in their ongoing push to replace copyright with compulsory licenses which flow through collective societies. In this case these were all Access Copyright allies, who already had their representatives speak at previous meetings.

In the afternoon we had John Barrack (Chief Operating Officer and Chief Legal Officer) and Reynolds Mastin (Council) from the Canadian Media Production Association who were big supporters of vendor-dependent content distribution platforms as a replacement for copyright licensing. They didn't articulate it this way, but instead as a support for legal protection for TPMs. I didn't get the impression that they knew what TPMs were and how they worked, just that in all the questions the thing that they were most firm in was their support for TPMs.

While the witnesses didn't have much to add that hadn't already been said by other witnesses, there was some interesting things said by the committee members.

Mr. Dean Del Mastro stated that "people don't understand fair dealing", referring both to the witnesses and some of the other members of the committee. I would consider that an understatement. There has been so much "sky is falling" rhetoric based on misunderstanding of fair dealings, and it was clear from the answers from witnesses that they didn't understand how the current system works or what impact the minor changes in Bill C-32 would have.

Mr. Lake asked one of the witnesses to back up some of the alleged losses that their industry would feel if C-32 went through without amendments. It is good to see this, given most of the studies from the collectives or the intermediaries like recording, motion picture and software industry don't say what the lobbiest claim they say. In many cases the alleged losses have nothing at all to do with infringement, but perfectly legal and generally positive changes in the marketplace with the introduction of competing business methods or other alternatives.

It is critical that the underlying methodologies be looked at by the committee, so that they don't stop beneficial things simply because they compete with the product and services of the witnesses.

After the "iPod tax" was mentioned again by the Conservatives, Liberal Marc Garneau clarified that this was taken off the table for the Bill C-32 discussion. The Liberals made clear last year that they had rejected an extension of the private copying regime for devices being added to C-32. Given neither the Liberals or the Conservatives support this (9 of 12 members) it is impossible for it to happen as part of this bill. While there is a separate private members bill to explore this issue, and there may be people who still support this policy direction, that has now been separated from Bill C-32.