Heritage Committee Copyright Hearing, October 23, 2003

Posted by: Jason Young on Tuesday, November 11, 200311:40 PM EST


CopyrightNotes from the Heritage Committee meeting on digital copyright reform...


Re: Statutory Review of the Copyright Act, Section 92

Thursday, October 23, 2003
11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Room 308, West Block

Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) student correspondents: R. DuPelle and T. Sarantis.


The purpose of this meeting was to hear from witnesses who represented several different groups of interested parties, in order to get their input on the current reform of the Copyright Act. Before hearing from witnesses, however, the committee discussed the process. Although opinions at the committee were mixed, the majority of M.P.s wanted to see the reform process accelerated and concluded that it would be more beneficial to request that a draft bill on ratifying the WIPO treaties be drawn up. Some argued that the forthcoming change in Liberal administrations in February and the possibility of an election immediately afterward may result in much needed copyright reforms being shelved indefinitely. Those in opposition to the motion for a draft bill argued that further review of the Copyright Act is necessary and that preparing a bill at this stage would be putting the cart before the horse.

After debate, the following motion was passed (from the Minutes):

That the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage hereby recommend in the strongest possible terms to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Industry or its successor Ministry, that they instruct their officials to prepare draft legislation to be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage by February 10, 2004 in order that the government might ratify its commitments to the WIPO Treaty signed in 1997.

Further we would respectfully request the Ministers respond in writing to the Committee within two weeks of receiving this motion to clarify their instruction to their respective departments regarding this recommendation.

After this motion, the first witnesses presented their case.

Canadian Photographer’s Coalition
Correspondent: T. Sarantis

Witnesses: Mr. Boyle and Mr. Cornellier. Each of these witnesses spoke, but their basic argument was the same. The Coalition want to see Sections 10.2 and 13.2 repealed and also want the photographer to be considered the owner of copyright on their photographs, since they are the ones who create them. The Coalition seemed to want maximum protection for the photographers, and the ability to participate in the Internet market, which is very lucrative. Basically, the Coalition wants photographers to be given the same rights as other creators.
As a result of some questions asked by Members of Parliament, the Coalition stated they would like to see the whole process of reform to move along as quickly as possible because it is now costing photographers about $5,000 in revenue each month. Also as a result of questions by Members of Parliament, the Coalition again stressed their main point of wanting the photographer to be the owner of their work, so that they can claim a monopoly on it and be awarded certain rights from it.

Canadian Library Association
Correspondent: R. DuPelle

The witness for the Canadian Library Association was the organization's executive director, Don Butcher.

Butcher testified that although the Association is pleased that access and education are components of the government’s agenda the government must ensure that a true balance between the rights of copyright holders exists and that the ability of members of society to access information is maintained. The Association’s position is that ensuring access is an issue of social justice that the current scheme has too great an emphasis on rights over access. Butcher argued that the government should adopt a stewardship perspective rather than merely play the role of broker between rights holders and the public. Although this position came under criticism by other committee members this approach may be necessary in order to incorporate social justice safeguards in any reformed copyright scheme. Overall the Association would like a clarification of the objects, purposes and structure of the Copyright Act.

The most persuasive argument put forward by the Association is that libraries and museums need protection in order to secure their role in society as “economic incubators” for entrepreneurs. Butcher made reference to the role of libraries in providing access to information and in disseminating information to the public in new ways. He reminded the committee that the Association also represents creators since they too use libraries to gather information as part of the creative process. This was an interesting reframing of the traditional perception of libraries within the copyright scheme. As compelling as these arguments may be the other witnesses seemed to be unconvinced that libraries actually safeguard rather than hinder creators’ economic rights.

Butcher was asked whether
Canada was ahead or behind the U.S. in terms of copyright law. In response he argued that Canadian policy lags behind the U.S. in terms of the use of electronic journals. Butcher noted that in American libraries librarians are permitted to deliver electronic versions of articles to professors’ desktops.

Some committee members seemed to disagree with Butcher’s position on several fronts and appeared to be unconvinced that the problems identified by the Association were indeed paramount. In general, the committee seemed to be focused on the grievances of creators and rights holders over the interests of users.

Union of Canada, Periodical Writers Association of Canada, League of Canadian Poets and the Playwrights Guild of Canada.
Correspondent: T. Sarantis

The two spokespeople were Ms. Hebb and Ms. Kome. Their basic position is that the term of copyright should be extended, because if it isn’t, copyright owners will just go to other countries and register and
Canada will be deprived. They also voiced some displeasure with certain amendments made to the Copyright Act that allows libraries to make photocopies of works since they do not consider the economic impact on writers. As with the Photographer’s Coaltion, this group also was stressing the rights of the writers as copyright owners.
After a general question on what should be done in terms of copyright reform, these witnesses said that the government should get on with the drafting and put more resources in the process.

DAMIC: Droit d’auteur multimedia internet copyright
Correspondent: T. Sarantis

Witnesses: Ms. Messier and Mr. Legare. They also seemed displeased with the current state of the reform of the Copyright Act and wanted to get across that creators and artists need to be able to benefit from their work . As a result of questions from a Member of Parliament, this group stated that the public thinks that everything available to the public is free of copyright and that as long as it is not protected by technological measures, it is not protected at all.


Note: Source: CIPPIC