I went to a “debate” about Canada’s current copyright bill, C-32, at hosted by the Ryerson Commerce & Politics Association. The debate featured David Fewer of CIPPIC and Kevin Moore, federal Conservative candidate for Toronto—Centre and was to focus on three issues: the impact of the bill on students, an overview of the proposed changes, and the effect of the legislation on consumers.
The format suffered from the contrast in the backgrounds of the speakers. From David’s bio, he is an “intellectual property and technology lawyer, and brings a decade of practice experience to CIPPIC’s advocacy on intellectual property and technology files.” Meanwhile, Kevin is “a church minister and Executive Director of [not-for-profit] City of Hope.” While both speakers were well spoken and courteous, only David was an expert on the subject matter. Kevin admitted to as much at the beginning, telling us that he’d had about three weeks to read up on the issue. He was a likable guy and tried, but he was pretty much restricted to reiterating the party line on the bill. “Honouring international obligations” was one of the talking points.
David had a more nuanced analysis of the bill, opening by sharing some of the positives he saw in the bill (e.g. parody & satire exceptions) and criticizing what he saw as the issues. He highlighted three big issues. First, the ban on anti-circumvention technologies is problematic because it creates a “fourth layer of protection” on top of copyright, contract, and technology. As an example of the effects of enshrining digital locks in law, the bill would finally make it legal to rip CDs, but it would be illegal to rip DVDs because they’re encrypted. The second issue was peer-to-peer sharing, making the argument that it is happening, and the bill should find some way to help creators get paid rather than creating avenues for them to be litigious. He pointed out efforts at a collective approach by the Songwriters Association of Canada as an example. Finally, he found the education exceptions unnecessarily limited.
After the formal and informal portions of the session, the speakers took questions. I asked a broad question about term length, sneaking in a reference to some economic analyses that point towards shorter terms being better. David pointed out that the bill contains two small term extensions, and elaborated on the photography one. Basically, right now copyright in photos is 50 years. This makes it easy to figure out if an image is in the public domain simply by looking it and dating the contents. So as an example, a picture of the Toronto skyline without the original Commerce Court building (built 1930) is at least 80 years old, so we can tell from a glance that it’s in the public domain. However, the bill seeks to convert photos to life of the author + 50, which would make things more difficult for archivists, librarians and others who routinely work with older photographs.
I would have liked to ask some questions of Kevin, but didn’t get the chance. To me, a term extension like that isn’t very conservative; I’m curious how it fits in with conservative ideology.