Bev Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage, replies to Copyright related letter.

The following is a letter from Bev Oda, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Woman, replying to an earlier letter I wrote. This letter is dated November 20, 2006. (Note to techies: This is a signed snail-mail letter, not an e-mail)

Dear Mr. McOrmond:

Thank you for your correspondence of October 11, 2006, co-addressed to Mr. David McGuinty and Mr. James Rajotte, Members of Parliament, regarding copyright reform in Canada. I appreciate your advising me on your views and have carefully noted your comments with respect to this matter.

We want to work with government on copyright, says Page

Steven Page of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition wrote a letter to the editor of the Hill Times.

I did indeed meet with the ministers, however, not with my band, Barenaked Ladies, but with fellow musicians Andrew Cash and Brendan Canning. We came to Ottawa as representatives of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition, a broad-based and politically neutral coalition of musicians from across the country.

Note: Like the CMCC, the citizens involved in Digital Copyright Canada and the people I represent with CLUE (Canada's Association for Open Source) are also either non-partisan or multi-partisan. Copyright is not a partisan issue, and it is what individuals bring that is critical. There is nothing in any historical political philosophy that prepares people better to understanding these issues.

Grossly Excessive Penalties in the Battle Against Illegal File-Sharing

A Paper by J. Cam Barker talks about statutory damages being stacked on top of each other for "similar, low-reprehensibility misconduct". While the paper is written in the context of US law which for $150,000 damages per file, Canadian law is similarly inappropriate in allowing "a sum of not less than $500 or more than $20,000 as the court considers just." (Section 38.1 of the Canadian Copyright Act).

I believe that the Canadian government and courts should look closely at this issue and decide whether it is appropriate to have a minimum of $500 per file when few people outside of the boardrooms of major transnational labels and studios believe that the punishment is warranted by the misconduct.

Recording industry breaking their end of the deal

This Financial Times article by Duke Law School professor James Boyle talks about the massive harm of copyright term extension (Both to the general public, but also harming the interests of the creators that the proponents of extensions allege to represent).

Yet without the copyright holder’s permission, to copy or redistribute these works is illegal even if it is done on a non-profit basis. The goal of copyright is to encourage the production of, and public access to, cultural works. It has done its job in encouraging production. Now it operates as a fence to discourage access. As the years go by, we continue to lock up 100 per cent of our recorded culture from a particular year in order to benefit an ever-dwindling percentage – the lottery winners – a grotesquely inefficient cultural policy.

CMEC, Copyright and Québec

There is an interesting opinion piece by a Québec publishers association against the education institutional exception proposed by CMEC. Please read the BLOG articles by Howard Knopf and Michael Geist.

This issue points at the importance of Québec in the copyright debate, but also the fact that there are more than two sides in the so-called "educational use of the Internet" debate. Like Mr. Knopf I disagree with the CMEC proposal, but for reasons very different than the publishers association. See the earlier article: How CMEC and Access Copyright seek to destroy the Internet.

China's intellectual property rights honeymoon

An article by James F. Paradise, AsiaMedia Contributing Writer, includes:

...interesting phenomena are occurring throughout the world: the emergence of an "open source generation" that is accustomed to using software such as Linux and Mozilla Firefox, contributing to online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia and sharing information rather than protecting it; severe criticism of the Western intellectual property model, and not just in developing countries; and complaints by the creators of intellectual property, such as screenwriters, that they are not being adequately compensated for their creations by the corporations for whom they labor.

Time out for a Canadian copyright commission?

A Hill Times OPED by lawyer Howard Knopf states that, "Some key aspects of the copyright system and revision process are becoming dysfunctional in Canada". He calls for a judge-lead copyright commission to try to look into this area of policy.

Please also see his Excess Copyright BLOG for ongoing analysis. He almost always takes a position I agree with, and that would help Canadian law move forward rather than backward as lobbied for by the incumbent industry associations. The only exception is on levies, where I have come to believe that non-commercial adaption and online distribution of multimedia (music, television, movies) should be legalized the same way radio and cable-TV was : through statutory/compulsory licensing.

Oda Funding Controversy May Derail Broadcast and Copyright Policy

Mr Geist's weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) takes stock off the brewing controversy over Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda's fundraising activities. With the Hill Times running a lead story on her 2005 fundraiser and persistent questions in the House of Commons, it is becoming apparent that this issue is quickly becoming a liability for the Conservative government.

Charlie Angus, MP for Timmins--James Bay and Heritage Critic for the NDP, has been the person raising the profile of this issue in the House of Commons.

A change of pace in the UK copyfight

I have seen a number of references to a recent report from the Institute of Public Policy Research, entitled Public Innovation: Intellectual Property in a Digital Age. According to blogger Tim Cowlishaw it "recommends giving consumers a 'right to private copy' - effectively legalising the 'format shifting' of media, for instance by copying a CD onto a user's PC or mp3 player".

Canadian readers should note that the Canada has the same limited exceptions as the UK, under the same title of "fair dealings". There has been calls from many Canadians, including Telus CEO Darren Entwistle, calling on Canada to adopt a living Fair Use model that would legalize things such as time, space and device shifting. These private activities carried out on copyright material lawfully obtained would be carved out of copyright entirely such that they would no longer need permission or payment.

Belinda Stronach and Patents

The following is a letter I wrote to Ms. Stronach in response to words she uttered in Parliament regarding technology and patents.

Dear Ms. Stronach,

I am a member of your constituency and an Ontario licensed Professional Engineer. I am currently working at developing new high technology products. Your following words from Hansard on October 25 were recently brought to my attention.

“Mr. Speaker, last week, the World Intellectual Property Organization released its annual report containing a bleak measure of Canada's international competitiveness.

Patents show our strength at turning our research and development into commercial success and indicate where the new jobs will come from.

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