Monday, October 23, 2006

Canada's "International Obligations"?

On October 2, 2006, a senior official from the Department of Canadian Heritage, spoke as follows to the Canadian Heritage Committee of the House of Commons:

Ms. Danielle Bouvet: I believe that Ms. Oda, our minister, has already said that this bill is a priority for her. She has already announced that she wants to act as quickly as possible to ensure that our Act complies with our international obligations.

(emphasis added)

Here’s the link to the whole session. Michael spotted this a few days ago - and it’s a really unfortunate statement because it’s based upon an inaccurate premise and is, frankly, misleading. Canada is in full compliance with its current international copyright obligations, unlike a certain neighbouring country that is strongly pressuring Canada to implement and ratify the 1996 WIPO Treaties but which is itself in ongoing violation of the 1994 WTO TRIPS agreement, as finally adjudicated by a WTO panel.

Needless to say, Canada has not ratified the 1996 WIPO Treaties and therefore has no “international obligations” to implement them or ratify them or to enact any of their provisions. Interestingly, the USA (oops, I said it) is fully bound by the WTO TRIPS agreement, which it continues to violate with respect to s. 110(5) of its Copyright Act. It may have reached a “temporary arrangement” with the complainants, but that unsatisfactory temporary arrangement is getting increasingly permanent and will doubtless come back to haunt.

And it’s getting harder and harder for the Americans to say that they comply with the moral rights provisions of Berne, which is something that Canada has done since 1931. One after another, US court cases are stripping away sustenance for the US argument that it provides the equivalent of moral rights protection. Moral rights are very important to creators and Canada should be proud of its long acceptance of this basic principle that has been fought hardest and longest by the American entertainment industry, and the US government - which managed to carve out moral rights from the dispute settlement mechanism at the WTO.

If that “international obligations” phrase sounds familiar, it could be because it is essentially identical to the language of the PR and GR machine of the CRIA, (Canadian Recording Industry Association) or, the Canadian Recording Industry of America, as many call now call it.

Just over a year ago, on September 5, 2005,C RIA’s Prez, Graham Henderson stated:

The WIPO treaties were signed by Canada in 1997, but have yet to be implemented here. Some commentators, viewing the proposed provisions of Bill C-60, question whether the draft will be effective and whether it will allow Canada to implement its international treaty obligations.
(emphasis added)

Perhaps the Minister of Canadian Heritage and her officials are feeling some pressure on this copyright account from the US government - which is surely the only reason why anyone in Ottawa is even listening to CRIA these days on this subject or anything else for that matter. After all, CRIA lost several of its most important Canadian independent members earlier this year. There are no organizations representing independent Canadian interests that are nearly so aggressive on WIPO ratification.

And speaking of treaties, it’s ironic that Canada is now in such a hurry to ratify the 1996 WIPO Treaties - which were controversial and problematic for Canada from the get go - and are rapidly becoming stale dated in any case. At the same time, it has become apparent this past week that Canada is backing away from our actual, real and existing “international obligations” under the KYOTO Accord. Maybe we’ll do something by 2050. What these two positions clearly have in common is that they suit the current US Administration. So, ironically, about the only thing that will last longer than Mickey Mouse’s copyright will be Canada’s timetable to clean up the air we breathe.

Of course, don’t count Mickey out for copyright term extension in Canada. He may have lost the first battle in the Mouse in the House aka Lucy Maud Montgomery episode. But that won’t be the end of the war. So, his copyright may yet live long enough to see cleaner air in Canada.

Do we, as a country, give a higher priority to protecting the American entertainment industry’s “right” to higher royalties from Canadians than Canadians' rights to clean air?


No comments:

Post a Comment