Elections Canada and enforcable laws

The National Post had an interesting article today on the election and Elections Canada's increasingly futile attempt to try to keep a lid on election results across time zones.

It quotes Dan Zen, professor of interactive multimedia at Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning who said "There must be lots of options but I know one option that isn’t going to work is trying to enforce secrecy over Twitter and Facebook. That’s just not going to work, so expectation needs to change."

As well Jen Evans, CEO of Sequentia Environics said "Laws are only as good as your ability to enforce them and I think this one is going to be a challenge. This doesn’t seem very enforceable"

Having laws which are in fact enforceable without going to the extraordinary measures that some authoritarian countries need to do, is certainly a good idea, and I think Elections Canada is eventually going to have to come to terms with this new reality and peoples new expectation. They will have to change their laws. That these laws have existed for 70 years is irrelevant in the face of new technology.

The other thing which occurred to me as I read this article, is that perhaps these are the obvious people whom the federal government should have been consulting when drafting the new copyright legislation as well.

With regard to trying to keep existing laws effective in the face of new technology I wonder which government department will be the first to realize that the horse they are beating is in fact well and truly dead. Elections Canada, or Industry/Heritage Canada. Given this mainstream article, my money is on Elections Canada.

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Different aspects of election and copyright law.

I'm wondering if we narrowed the conversation a bit that we would find out that Industry Canada may already have won the race you propose (and just need to get that aspect passed in a bill).

For the sake of this discussion, lets ignore the technical protection measures aspect of Bill C-32. I strongly believe its inclusion is based on a misunderstanding of the impact of the relevant technology (what is locked, who owns what is locked, how enforceable non-owner locks on anything are, etc), and that technologically sophisticated people must continue to fight for sensible laws here.

Having Copyright regulate the private activities of citizens is likely the most out-of-touch aspect of existing Canadian Copyright law. It is the part that requires "extraordinary measures that some authoritarian countries need to do" in order to enforce or even monetize remotely accurately.

In the proposed section 29.22 of Bill C-32 it would no longer have been an infringement of copyright to make reproductions for private purposes. This would have taken one of the most out-of-touch aspect of existing Canadian Copyright law, and made it more rational. This is a problem that countries like the USA never had with their robust living Fair Use regime.

The Conservatives did take a good idea and break it in a few key ways. They created carve-outs from the private purposes exception in order to protect/increase the blank media levy, as well as to allow technological measures to create an opt-out of this good policy.

Many consider technological measures to be an "extraordinary measures that some authoritarian countries" might have thought up, but I'm not yet convinced the relevant policy makers have made these decisions deliberately or knowingly. We have the odd scenario in Kitchener-Waterloo of an incumbent MP who sat in on every C-32 committee meeting coming out without the slightest clue of how this technology works. My hope is that constituents of this technologically sophisticated district will replace him with someone who has a better grasp on the basics of technology. There is still the possibility that this level of bad policy won't be incorporated into Canadian law.

There are a lot of aspects of Canada's election law that continue to make sense in a modern communications world. It is really a patch of a similar type to 29.22 of Bill C-32 that is needed to fix the ill-advised attempts to control what Canadians say about their election.

Industry Canada tumbled out of the gate.

Russell, you are right Bill C-32 gestures in the right direction, but as you say the fair use provision is qualified with having to not break any DRM in the process. It is further qualified by only being allowed to make a single copy of broadcasts and only being allowed to keep that copy for no longer that necessary to view it.

Additionally it tries to restrict people from giving away copies. I know there are many who do not consider this an unreasonable restriction, but show me just one person who has not made a copy of music or a TV program, then given it away to friend? That I expect you would have difficulty fulfilling this request demonstrates the absurdity of this restriction. I'll bet even our friend and copyright maximalist, John Degen, is guilty of this.

So yes the Bill makes a gesture in the right direction but it is so full of exceptions and extraordinary measures (DRM) that they amount to nothing and demonstrate that Industry Canada along with the incumbent media industries has not yet made the necessary paradigm shift.

My money is still on Elections Canada.


You are right that everyone infringes copyright, including those who claim such righteous indignation about infringement.

I think there is a difference between copyright regulating truly private activities, and copyright regulating more vague things like minimal personal distribution of a private copy.

One is seen as so out of touch that it makes copyright worthy of public ridicule, while the other is something people wouldn't talk about in mixed company (even if they did it all the time).