Bill C-11 legislative committee day 1 thoughts

The first meeting of the C-11 special legislative committee was held on February 14, 2012. This meeting had the regular motions to start a committee, setting the amount of time to meet and other such things. Audio recordings are already available, and minutes and transcripts will come later.

The plan is to meet for 12 hours per week (normally committees only meet 4h/week), with all work ceasing on March 29 at which point the bill will be reported back to the house. There will be witnesses starting Feb 27'th after the break, with clause-by-clause of the bill starting on March 14'th.

This is a very complex omnibus bill, and it is obvious that such a bill can't be adequately understood in the time allocated. I think that horse has left the barn, and that the government intends to pass this bill regardless of the harm it will cause and without spending the time to understand the mistakes they are about to pass into law.

The meeting went as well as one can expect in a majority parliament where the Conservatives have decided to treat this in such a partisan way. When a Conservative tabled a motion it passed, and when an opposition member tabled an amendment it was defeated.

Dean Del Mastro repeated his chicken little rhetoric from the first meeting of the C-32, justifying the urgency of passing this bill on some unproven claim that "property rights" (meaning government granted monopolies in the form of copyright) are under attack and that this bill would solve that problem. While I may agree that property rights are under attack, it is the property rights of technology owners that are being attacked by this bill.

Mr. Del Mastro also claimed a few times that Canada signing the 1996 WIPO treaties created an obligation for Canada to ratify, which is false. If people thought a few moments they could think of treaties which the current government has reneged on that was even ratified by Canada, so it appears quite subjective as to which treaties create obligations and which ones do not.

While most of the discussion was focused on the procedural issues that was the focus of the meeting, there were a few copyright policy exchanges. One interesting exchange was between Tyrone Benskin (NDP) and Scott Armstrong (Conservative). Mr Benskin spoke about how he worked "in this industry", meaning he was an actor, composer, etc. Mr Armstong, previously an educator and school principle, corrected him by saying that copyright isn't only about the entertainment industry.

It would be nice if Mr. Armstrong would talk to Mr. Del Mastro. It seems that Mr. Del Mastro is getting his speaking notes from the International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI), an industry association made up of a subset of the entertainment and software sector who through fear mongering and debunked "studies" have been duping governments into passing harmful laws. These policies favor the interests of IIPI membership over their competitors, rights of citizens, and the economy as a whole.

The current IIPI board chair is Bruce A. Lehman, the same person who has acknowledged in the past that the same policies from the Clinton/Gore administration he continues to push were a failure. The worst aspects of C-11, the TPM sections, originate from from Lehman's 1995 NII report. He and allies seem unwilling to modernize their thinking and recognize how much of a failure those outdated policy ideas have been.

It is critical for people to recognize that the TPM part of bill C-11 brings Canada back in time, not forward, and that any claim that this section of the bill will modernize our law is backwards.

It is not only the interests of educators that may be ignored, but the interests of a vast majority of stakeholders. In all the consultations that lead to this bill the loudest single message was that Canadians rejected legal protection for technological protection measures, and yet a far-beyond-WIPO version of TPMs which directly attacks the interests of technology owners (which is all of us) is contained in Bill C-11.

Note: I did not attend this first meeting in person as I am sick at home. If the stomach flue didn't get to me first, this meeting might have turned my stomach anyway :-)

When the C-32 committee was meeting for 4 hours a week it was reasonable for me to take the time off work to attend, but I won't be able to do that with 12 hours per week. I will endeavor to provide some commentary on each meeting, attending some in person and listening to the audio recordings of others.