The government held a one-hour online discussion about its Consultation paper on how to implement an extended general term of copyright protection in Canada.
Responses are due on March 12, 2021. That’s not a misprint.
There were lots of questions but very few if any specific answers. My questions were as follows and in my personal capacity:
- Why the extremely short one month deadline for comments on the consultation paper?
- Who is the principal author of this paper?
- Why has the registration proposal for the 20-year extension recommended by INDU and several experts been effectively taken off the table?
- What are the resource/cost implications for the Copyright Board of the various options?
Here are some takeaways from today’s session:
· The Government seems to have decided in advance that requiring registration and presumably some fee for owners to take advantage of the extra 20 years “raises serious questions” re Canada’s international obligations. That is frankly highly debatable. It would be interesting to see whatever opinion was responsible for the Government’s clear predilection to take this off the table. BTW, this was the solution proposed by INDU, and several experts – including myself.
· I asked who was the principal author of the consultation paper – but was told only that it was both departments.
· In response to several questions about the short timeline to respond, the repeated answer was that there were other consultations also coming up soon on the “internet of things” and “online intermediaries.” I asked what these were even about and why these issues were so urgent, when we are facing a deadline of the end of 2022 to implement a CUSMA obligation that could potentially cost Canadians Billions of $$$ and negatively affect access to knowledge, innovation, etc. No specific answer.
· There was confirmation that some of the options could have resource/cost implications for the Copyright Board. Handing any of this over to the Copyright Board? What could possibly go wrong? I didn’t ask that question.
The last point for the moment but not the least - the Government officials indicated that any legislation might not be a standalone bill. Does this mean another middle of the night sneak attack in an omnibus bill with no possibility of meaningful hearings or debate? Sadly, the Liberals have broken a campaign promise and taken up and perfected the Stephen Harper tradition of omnibus bills that include stealth inclusion of copyright provisions in omnibus bills not subject to normal scrutiny, such as Stephen Harper's frankly shameful inclusion in the 2015 eve-of-the-election budget bill, of all things, of an extension to 70 years for sound recordings. There was no consultation or debate, of course. It was a simple and gratuitous giveaway to the American recording industry through the efforts of its Canadian surrogate and a triumph of lobbying over logic and evidence, as I have previously said.