Bill C-11 legislative committee day 10 thoughts

The tenth meeting of the C-11 special legislative committee was held on March 12, 2012. I posted some quick videos which may offer a good summary.

This was the first day of clause-by-clause, and even with a break for MPs to go to the house and vote, the committee made it approximately half-way through the bill if number of pages mean anything. The meeting will continue tomorrow with clause 35, and the 10'th amendment from the Liberal party that seeks to amend that clause. There is no spoiler here, but the amendment will fail simply because it was a Liberal amendment. While it is possible that opposition amendments could pass, it is highly unlikely if the pattern set thus far continues. Any amendment tabled by the government quickly passes, and any amendment tabled by either opposition party fails.

For those treating the committee as absurd theater, there was a bit of a spoiler this morning as we headed into committee. It appears that the full list of amendments (8 from the Conservatives, 17 from the NDP, and 14 from the Liberals) was leaked, and Michael Geist had a posting talking about what he saw.

Those concerned about SOPA-like provisions will be mostly happy, as while amendments to the secondary liability "enabler" provisions were tabled which expanded those provisions, it isn't anywhere near as bad as some had feared. It is likely that all the letters, including from groups like OpenMedia, were critical in opposing these provisions.

Those like myself who are primarily concerned about how the technological measures provisions induce and enable infringements of technology property rights will be disappointed. While both opposition parties will be offering amendments to link technological measures to copyright infringing purposes, the Conservatives are expected to vote those amendments down and offer no amendments to protect the legitimate rights of technology owners. It is sad that an allegedly conservative government is offering so little respect for property rights.

The conversation between members while debating clauses and amendments is quite familiar, and follows the theme I wrote about on March 3. When it comes to copyright provisions it is the Government that appears to best represent the wider interests of Canadians, but when it comes to non-copyright provisions (including technological measures which have nothing to do with copyright) it is the opposition that best represents Canadians. That said, the non-copyright aspects of this bill are so bad that any Canadian that has the slightest respect for property or privacy rights, and the balance that would normally exist in contract, eCommerce and copyright law should oppose this bill. As fairly balanced the copyright portion of the bill is, the non-copyright technological measures are far worse.

Unless the Conservatives wake up to the harm to property rights they are imposing, this anti-property-rights bill will pass.


When I walked into the committee room I noticed that both Michael Geist and Barry Sookman were in attendance. In the past when I've seen Mr. Sookman in person I've been friendly as, while I disagree with his policies, I saw him as a nice person. It would not have been honest for me to do that this meeting as I believe he has crossed the line with the smear campaign against the Canadian Bar Association, and his personal attacks against Mr Geist.

Lawyers already have a hard time with the reputation of their profession, and the types of tactics that Mr. Sookman is using harm the reputation of the entire profession.

Mr. Geist is an adult, has thick skin, and can handle himself, so I'm not going to defend him here. Mr. Sookman's continued his false claims in his "A question of Values" posting to his website (I'm not going to link) that Mr Geist has some "ideological antagonism towards copyright". This unfounded slur reminded me of the first newspaper article about my activism in this area which was given the false headline of "Anti-copyright Crusader". The content written by the journalist was accurate, it was only the headline added by the editor that was wrong.

The false claim is that if people don't agree with very specific ways that are falsely advertised to "protect" copyright, namely technological measures which induce infringements of a wide variety of rights (including copyright), then you are somehow anti-copyright. Given "access control" technological measures are effectively a replacement of copyright, it is far more accurate to suggest that proponents of this extreme form of technological measure (such as Sookman) are anti-copyright.

While it is the rights of technology owners that are my primary concern, it is also pro-copyright and pro-copyright-holder to be strongly opposed to technological measures in copyright. This means any "access control", any use controls not strictly tied to copyright infringing activities, or any prohibition of devices and services. It is unfortunate that people like Sookman have been able to confuse MPs and some creators into believing that technological measures will help rather than harm a majority of copyright holders. It is sad that he and a small minority of lawyers have spent so much time trying to smear the reputation of lawyers (including, but not limited to Michael Geist) who are promoting copyright law that benefit creators as well as the other rights of Canadians.