Monday, April 10, 2006

Bev Oda quoted on WIPO

The Hill Times today reports as follows:

The Hill Times, April 10th, 2006
Conservative government to introduce copyright bill: Bev Oda

The Conservative government intends to amend the Copyright Act and ratify two internet treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization, Heritage Minister Bev Oda told the Hill Times last week after the Speech from the Throne.

"Copyright legislation has to be amended to make [compliant] our copyright laws and ratify the international treaties," Ms. Oda (Durham, Ont.) said. "We will be introducing a new copyright bill that will expedite meeting our international obligations but also making sure that we have a copyright regime and a copyright framework that's appropriate."

The short article by Simon Doyle goes on to talk about the WIPO treaties and concludes with a quote from this blog under the title "Trick of Treaty?":

Let's hope that this Government has not made up its mind already on the WIPO treaties," Ottawa copyright lawyer Howard Knopf, a critic of the treaties, wrote on his blog last week. "Many would consider that to be a less than funny trick.

Three points:

  • It will be interesting to see precisely what Mme Oda means and whether she is officially speaking for the Government, especially given the famously tight reign that this PMO has put on Ministers' public statements. At least one of her predecessors was somewhat notorious for shooting from the lip on coypright matters without the backing of cabinet or her colleague at Industry. I have not heard anything that would indicate that this Government's Cabinet has yet decided to ratify the WIPO treaties.
  • As quoted, Mme Oda's statment is ambiguous. On the one hand she talks about ratifying "the international treaties", but then goes on to talk about " meeting our international obligations". Well, we already do and then some. As I've said many times, we have no obligation to ratify these treaties and we meet or exceed our present treaty commitments in copyright law. Is is possible that Mme Oda is being slightly imprecise with terms such as "ratify"?
  • This blogger has said that there is is nothing wrong per se with these treaties, so I'm not necessarily a critic of them. It all depends on how they are implemented. I am, however, criticial of how the USA has done so. I said a while ago:
The WIPO treaties are not necessarily bad per se. The difficulty is is clearly in finding a means, if possible, of implementing them that is good and not bad for Canada. Whether this can be done is not clear. Certainly, it can’t be done in Canada's interest the way CRIA and the American DMCA champions call for.
Michael has also parsed some other ambiguities here.

So, at the end of the day, it looks a bit, in the Canadian tradtion, like "WIPO Ratification if necessary, but not necessarily WIPO Ratification."


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