A ‘Made in Canada Solution’ My Ass

Posted: April 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Today, Michael Geist, law professor and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law from the University of Ottawa, tweeted a link to some leaked documents allegedly pertaining to trade negotiations between Canada and the European Union. While there are quite a few documents available, I took a moment to flip through the one focused on intellectual property negotiations, and found some rather shocking proposals that would both lengthen existing copyright terms and dismantle what few fair-use laws currently exist in Canada.

It’s no secret that our federal copyright law is a mess. While US copyright law tends to be more draconian in nature (see the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act), Canadian copyright law consists of a mass of overlapping statutes and supreme court decisions that combine to make it inefficient, costly to consumers, and extremely hard to navigate. Check out this episode of Jesse Brown’s Search Engine Podcast for a great interview with Howard Knopf, an intellectual property lawyer from Ottawa who believes that Canada already has excessive IP laws, and the Copyright Board of Canada’s ridiculously long list of Canadian copyright organizations for more information.

This past summer, our federal conservative government held public copyright consultations on the possibility of Canadian copyright reform. At the time, I both participated in the consultation process, and wrote a lengthy post detailing my answers to the questions posed by the government. Based on this leak, and previous leaks of alleged ACTA materials, I guess that secretive international treaties were what our government actually had in mind when they said that they would take a ‘made in Canada’ approach to the reform process.

So without further ado (and with full recognition that I am not a lawyer, and could be way off the mark with my comments), I’ll run through a couple of the scarier things that I found in the leaked document:

  1. A possible extension of existing copyright terms from 50 years to 70 past death:

    The rights of an author of a literary or artistic work within the meaning of Article 2 of the Berne Convention shall run for the life of the author [EC: and for 70 years after his death, irrespective of the date when the work is lawfully made available to the public.] [Canada: and the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of at least 50 years following the end of that calendar year.]

  2. Term extensions for orphaned works:

    [EC: In the case of anonymous or pseudonymous works, the term of protection shall run for 70 years after the work is lawfully made available to the public.] [Canada: Where the identity of the author of a work is unknown, copyright in the work shall subsist for whichever of the following terms ends earlier:
    (a) a term consisting of the remainder of the calendar year of the first publication of the work and a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year, and
    (b) a term consisting of the remainder of the calendar year of the making of the work and a period of seventy-five years following the end of that calendar year.]

  3. 25-year term protection for the first person who uses a copyrighted work after its initial expiry date:

    [EC: The Parties shall ensure that any person who, after the expiry of copyright protection, for the first time lawfully publishes or lawfully communicates to the public a previously unpublished work, shall benefit from a protection equivalent to the economic rights of the author. The term of protection of such rights shall be 25 years from the time when the work was first lawfully published or lawfully communicated to the public.

  4. Non-negotiable royalties to the rights holder of a copyrighted work any time that it is resold (this could mean a loss of the ability to sell used books/CDs at a garage sale):

    The Parties shall provide, for the benefit of the author of an original work of art, a resale right, to be defined as an inalienable right, which cannot be waived, even in advance, to receive a royalty based on the sale price obtained for any resale of the work, subsequent to the first transfer of the work by the author.

  5. Full-on DMCA-style prohibition of any device that can be used to circumvent Digital Rights Management (DRM) schemes:

    The Parties shall provide adequate legal protection against the circumvention of any effective technological measures, which the person concerned carries out in the knowledge, or with reasonable grounds to know, that he or she is pursuing that objective. The Parties shall provide adequate legal protection against the manufacture, import, distribution, sale, rental, advertisement for sale or rental, or possession for commercial purposes of devices, products or components or the provision of services which:
    (a) are promoted, advertised or marketed for the purpose of circumvention of, or
    (b) have only a limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to circumvent, or
    (c) are primarily designed, produced, adapted or performed for the purpose of enabling or facilitation the circumvention of, any effective technological measures.
    For the purposes of this Agreement, the expression ‘technological measures’ means any technology, device or component that, in the normal course of its operation, is designed to prevent or restrict acts, in respect of works or other subject-matter, which are not authorised by the right holder of any copyright or any right related to copyright as provided for by law. Technological measures shall be deemed ‘effective’ where the use of a protected work or other subject matter is controlled by the right holders through application of an access control or protection process, such as encryption, scrambling or other transformation of the work or other subject-matter or a copy control mechanism, which achieves the protection objective.

  6. As well legal ramifications for any person who uses a device that can circumvent DRM schemes:

    The Parties shall provide adequate legal protection against any person knowingly performing without authority any of the following acts:
    (a) the removal or alteration of any electronic rights-management information;
    (b) the distribution, importation for distribution, broadcasting, communication or making available to the public of works or other subject-matter protected under this Agreement from which electronic rights-management information has been removed or altered without authority, if such person knows, or has reasonable grounds to know, that by so doing he is inducing, enabling, facilitating or concealing an infringement of any copyright or any rights related to copyright as provided by law.

  7. Finally, a potentially positive section that seems to limit the ability of ISPs to use deep-packet inspection and selective filtering on their customers’ internet connections:

    Where an information society service is provided that consists of the transmission in a communication network of information provided by a recipient of the service, or the provision of access to a communication network, Parties shall ensure that the service provider is not liable for the information transmitted, on condition that the provider:
    (a) does not initiate the transmission;
    (b) does not select the receiver of the transmission; and
    (c) does not select or modify the information contained in the transmission.

Please take a moment to read the document for yourself, and consider contacting your member of parliament to discuss the proposed treaty with him/her. It’s only by being vigilant that we, the citizenry, can protect our rights against laws such as this that are quite obviously slanted in the favour of corporate rights holders.