Monday, May 25, 2009

Conference Board of Canada Controversy & American Based Copyright Lobbying - the Substantive Issues

Those who wish to pay $1,595 to attend a Conference Board of Canada conference this Friday May 29, 2009 that is reportedly being funded in the amount of $15,000 by Ontario taxpayers, according to ITBusiness, at which a controversial Conference Board of Canada report will be presented can find out more information about the Conference here. Prof. Geist has described this as a "deceptive, plagiarized rerport" and there's a front page article about all this in today's Ottawa Citizen.

While there are some good speakers on the list of this Conference Board Conference, the program and speaker list are seriously imbalanced in my view. It is regrettable that prestigious institutions such as the Public Policy Forum last year and the Conference Board of Canada this year allow themselves to be used in this way by lobbyists.

Those wishing to read the 2008 American IIPA lobbyist's report from which the Conference Board report has allegedly taken portions of its content can read it for free here.

These reports on Canada are prepared with the considerable input of a well known Washington lawyer named Steve Metalitz.

As it happens, I debated this very report with Mr. Metalitz at the 2008 Fordham conference, where I presented a paper entitled WHY CANADIAN COPYRIGHT LAW IS ALREADY STRONGER AND BETTER THAN THAT OF THE USA - AND WHY THE USA SHOULD LOOK IN THE MIRROR RATHER THAN AT ITS “SPECIAL 301" WATCH LIST.

This paper shows 15 ways in which Canadian copyright law is already stronger and better than American copyright law. None of those points have been refuted. These include a number of provisions that generate substantial amounts of money that benefit - in some cases mostly and significantly benefit - American interests, and for which the USA has no equivalent counterpart provisions. Here's a simplified "baker's dozen" list of examples from my paper:
  1. Payment by broadcasters for "ephemeral rights"
  2. Payment for public performance by small business establishments
  3. Neigbouring rights for sound recording producers and performers
  4. Theatrical exhibition rights for composers and authors
  5. Blank media levies
  6. Far higher reprography payments per capita - particularly in educational sector
  7. Moral rights
  8. No compulsory mechanical license
  9. About 36 copyright collectives (about six or seven times more than USA)
  10. Largest copyright tribunal infrastructure of any country that I know of
  11. No parody right
  12. No time shifting exemption
  13. Crown copyright, which results in private sector monetization.
So - in the current debate, which ironically involves allegations of plagiarism in the context of copyright lobbying - let us not lose sight of the basic underlying issues:
  1. In many ways which involve a lot of money flowing out of Canada to US interests, our Canadian copyright laws are already stronger and better than American laws.
  2. The USA remains the world's longest and most flagrant outstanding adjudicated international copyright scofflaw, as determined by the WTO now 9 years ago.

1 comment:

  1. You keep saying stronger and better as though one goes with the other. While this might appease the copyright maximalists somewhat, it is no more true nor fair than the drivel they try to pass off as policy guidance.

    No parody rights, and the existence of Crown copyright are certainly stronger, but they also makes our laws worse not better.

    Better, from the perspective of a growing proportion of the Canadian population means giving fewer rights to copyright owners, not more.

    Shorter terms, more fair use, fixed terms, mandatory registration. These would all make copyright law work better for society.