Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Throne Speech Sentence Scenarios

Michael does some more analysis of the Speech From the Throne. He is quite right in one sense that it can be taken in whatever way people may wish, in terms of copyright legislation. But, in some respects, if taken literally, this could be an enormous - virtually a constitutional - change in the way things are done in Canada.

The sentence about treaties was this:
Significant international treaties will be submitted for votes in Parliament.
Normally, the Government signs, accedes to or ratifies treaties as an executive decision following Cabinet approval. It may be the Prime Minister or the appropriate Minister, normally the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (or whatever the person is called at the time) who actually “signs” the document in question.

Signing at treaty (which I have said before is like dating is to marriage) is normally done before implementation and implementation is normally done by legislation, which of course is done by Parliament. Ratification (which is like marriage), if and when it follows, is - as stated above - an executive decision of the Government of the day in which Parliament does not have a direct voice or role.

So - if the Throne Speech means that the WIPO Treaties, for example, as such will at some point be “submitted for votes” in Parliament - that would be quite extraordinary. It would also likely mean dissection and debate in a minority Parliament as things now stand. Recall that just a very few of us were able to kill off the Lucy Maud provisions even in majority government - and that was before the days of blogs and the Bulte Effect, i.e. politicization of copyright in Canada. So, it’s very unlikely that any consideration of anything as controversial as DMCA North provisions on DRM and TPMs or national treatment (i.e. doubling) of blank media levies or the potential rendering illegal of P2P music downloading could sail though Parliament quickly on calm seas on a quiet evening, so to speak.

Those issues and many more would certainly come to the fore in any Parliamentary debates about WIPO treaties. It would be more like a dark and stormy night with a very uncertain outcome.

So, this little sentence in the Speech could prove to be very interesting.


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