Before Canadian Copyright there was already Canadian Copyright

Since Bill C-11 will set back technology property rights, I thought to look back in time for Copyright law. As discussed in the chronology of Canadian Copyright Law, Canada was under the UK copyright Act until 1921 (and thus under the Berne convention from the beginning in 1887). This didn't mean there weren't Copyright related acts to deal with issues specific to Canada, with the largest being our proximity to the "pirate" nation of the United States.

A quick search on Early Canadiana Online finds bills tabled in 1850. An obvious one to look at is Bill : an act to impose a duty on foreign re-prints of British copyright works, given we all knew where those "foreign re-prints" were coming from. At the time the USA didn't recognize foreign Copyright at all, something they are now aggressively seeking to deny every other country. The US were taking UK books and reprinting as if the works were in the public domain. Canadians were importing these cheaper "copyright free" books, effectively a back-door around copyright law.

On the same issue was Bill : an act respecting the admission into this province of foreign re- prints of British copy-right books.

We can look back to 1824 and the Bill for the encouragement of learning by securing the copies of maps, charts and books to the authors and proprietors of such copies during the time therein mentioned = Bill pour encourager les sciences, en assurant les copies des cartes, plans, et livres, aux auteurs et propriétaires de ces copies, durant le tems y mentionné to remember that the origional intent of this temporary government granted monopoly in Britain (and thus Canada) was the "encouragement of learning".

There is much to be learned by looking into the past, but I thought these two themes were the most interesting:

  1. That the anti-copyright nature of the United States has always had an influence on Canadian copyright law. As I've written many times, I consider "access control" technological measures to be a replacement of copyright, not a protection of copyright. While WIPO changed this to "use controls", C-11 included US originating "access controls" as well as WIPO originating "use controls".
  2. That the origins of the government granted Copyright monopoly is to encourage learning (or promote the progress of science and the useful arts, as worded in the USA). If we continued to evaluate changes to the copyright monopoly laws and practises with that lense I suspect we would recognize we are failing, and not only on the anti-copyright "technological protection" aspects of C-11.

    The second most controversial aspect of C-11 was educational copyright, where specific business model promoters (Access Copyright and devotees) and educational administration were arguing over the price of educational works created and distributed the pre-Internet way. With an "encouragement of learning" lense we would be amending Copyright law to encourage Open Access style business models where authors get paid (better than with legacy publishing models) and the resulting works are available to all Citizens royalty-free and without the restrictions (technological and otherwise) we are increasingly seeing with the legacy publishing models.

We have a long way to go to fix the direction Copyright has been recently taking, but it is not like this is a new conversation. It may seem new to those of us who started this generation (I started only in 2001), and hope others who recently joined will continue. Bill C-11 may have been a loss for technology owners and the goals and integrity of copyright, but this is but one bill that like any other bill can be amended and fixed.

Happy Canada Day!