Latest Wikileaks Release Shows How US Completely Drove Canadian Copyright Reform Efforts

from the surprise,-surprise dept

With Wikileaks State Department cables showing how much the US influenced copyright policy in Sweden and in Spain, it shouldn't really be much of a surprise that the US unduly influenced copyright policy elsewhere as well. The latest Wikileaks report confirms what pretty much everyone knew already: copyright reform in Canada was driven mainly by US interests. Michael Geist points out some of the highlights, including the US Government demanding anti-circumvention provisions (things that the creators of those provisions in the US have even admitted were a failure). Yet, the US demands this, while maintaining that it would prefer there be few, if any, exceptions on circumvention:
If there are any exceptions to TPM or rights management information (RMI) liability, the exceptions should be clearly enumerated and narrow in scope
Separately, the US demanded third party liability on ISPs to pressure them into acting as Hollywood's private copyright police force:
A system of protections and obligations for ISPs that shelters them from certain liability, reduces and prevents copyright infringement on the Internet and provides incentives for ISPs to work cooperatively with copyright owners.
In response, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harpher seemed happy to promise such things, which explains why the Canadian government kept pushing so hard for anti-circumvention "digital lock" rules, despite widespread opposition to that key part of the proposed Canadian copyright reform. And yet, the US keeps complaining that Canada isn't ratcheting up its copyright laws fast enough, not recognizing the widespread public opposition that such laws are facing.
Embassy Ottawa remains frustrated by the Government of Canada,s continuing failure to introduce - let alone pass - major copyright reform legislation that would, inter alia, implement and ratify the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet treaties. Several recent factors compound this frustration, including the fact that:

-- the Prime Minister told the President last August that Canada would pass copyright legislation;

-- the November Speech from the Throne laying out the government,s Parliamentary agenda stated that it would "improve the protection of cultural and intellectual property rights in Canada, including copyright reform;" and

-- senior GOC officials, especially Industry Minister Prentice, repeatedly assured the Ambassador and senior Mission Canada officers that the copyright bill would be introduced "soon." Specifically, assurances were given that the legislation had been finalized and would be introduced prior to the Christmas recess, and then again immediately upon Parliament's return in January. Neither of which occurred.
Note that there is no discussion as to why Canada hasn't moved forward. No discussion of the rather effective opposition to overly draconian copyright laws. Just demands that Canada "do something," and plans for the US to keep applying more and more diplomatic pressure.

Even more telling, the US ambassadors only seem to speak with either the government or copyright holder organizations in all of this. In one cable, it discusses concerns from the recording industry and the movie studios that Canada's proposed legal changes don't go far enough. Nowhere do they seem to speak to actual consumers or to anyone who represents consumers. Because, you see, it's not about them. In fact, it appears that the "Canadian" Recording Industry Association has a very cozy relationship with the US government, with the two meeting to get feedback on proposals and strategize about policy issues. Again, no mention of any similar consultation with the people actually impacted by such changes in the law: everyone else. In fact, it seems like the only time the public is mentioned at all, it's to note how pesky it is that they don't seem to like these changes, and to explain why Canada has slow rolled the changes (because politicians were afraid negative publicity would hurt their re-election campaigns).

In one of the earlier documents linked above, the State Department (based on feedback from industry) criticize the idea of "notice and notice" rather than "notice and takedown" with a snarky complaint about how it's "if I told you once, I've.... told you once." Apparently, the officials don't recognize how notice and takedown invariably leads to false takedown and stifling of free speech (something we thought US diplomats were supposed to be protecting).

Once again, none of this is even remotely surprising. The US government, at the urging of the US entertainment industry, has been pushing its own brand of overly aggressive, speech stifling, copyright laws around the globe. It's just too bad that Canadian politicians apparently don't have the guts to stand up to bullying US diplomats.

Filed Under: canada, copyright, diplomats, reform

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  1. icon
    Dirk Poot (profile), 29 Apr 2011 @ 5:17am

    Godwin in 3,2,1...

    So we have government and big corporations pushing laws that are detrimental to the citizens and beneficial only to the corporations.

    Seems to be fitting this definition Rooseveld gave of fascism: The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

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