Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Canadian A-list Copyright Consultations

The Canadian copyright consultations, announced only on July 10, 2009, are apparently turning into a hasty A-list, B-list and everyone else effort. They are starting tomorrow in Vancouver and apparently working their way east, with selected participants required to meet these events en route. Apparently, these consultations, at least the town halls, will somehow bypass Ottawa, which is rather odd I must say. Last I heard, Ottawa was the nation's capital.

Even those on the A-list round tables, set to begin tomorrow, Monday July 20, 2009, don't necessarily even know who else will be in the room.

Those on the B-list town hall meeting invitation list don't even know where or when they will be allowed their 15 seconds or so of fame.

All of this is happening in the summer time, when folks are hard to reach and mandates and instructions are even harder to get, except of course for the old pro trade associations whose sole or main business is copyright lobbying.

I'm sure that officials and Minsters mean well by this. But this is not the ideal way to consult Canadians on such important legislation. Especially, if as reported by Althia Raj:
"The government hopes to pass legislation before Christmas."
(emphasis added).

To "pass" legislation means to get it through the House, Senate and committee hearings in both places, not to mention proclamation in force. That would normally take an absolute minimum of at least six to eight months following the introduction of a bill. That's if the hearings are open, balanced and for real. And that's a high speed rocket docket agenda.

Remember that copyright laws cannot easily be undone if we get it wrong, because increased copyright rights are effectively a one way ratchet. Billions of dollars worth of so-called "rights" (and obligations) become vested, at least in the minds of their "owners", when such legislation becomes effective. It's very easy to increase copyright rights. It's much harder to cut them back to size if a mistake is made. Recall Disney's Sorcerer's Apprentice, which is all the more ironic because the Disney empire is perhaps the most consummate of all copyright lobbyists, having achieved the so-called "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" term extension legislation in the USA in 1998.

(Let's see how long this link lasts!)

If the consultations end on September 13, 2009 and the Government spends the necessary time to analyze the expected several dozen A-list, and the inevitable several hundred or thousand submissions by everyone else, it will be a miracle if the bill is even introduced by Christmas.

Passage before the next election would seem improbable as things now appear. That's assuming an election call by next summer, as everyone seems to assume.

However, as I've indicate earlier, taking out the bad parts of Bill C-61 and adding a few constructive key words would be quite easy. Then, we could could conceivably have a good bill.

So, hope springs eternal that a good bill could be passed, or that a bad bill will not be passed, by this government before the next election.

Either way, Canada wins.


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