Copyright Review in Canada: INDU Committee Issues Clumsy and Tone-Deaf “We’re in Charge” Press Release

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In an extraordinary display of gamesmanship, (one might say one-upmanship) the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU Committee) felt compelled to issue a clumsy and tone-deaf press release, titled “On Shifting Paradigms” on June 18 reminding the world that it has “sole responsibility” for the statutory review of the Copyright Act. It is most unusual for one Parliamentary Committee to comment publicly on the work of another, in this case the report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Shifting Paradigms, issued last month. In effect, the press release confirms that in delivering its report, the INDU Committee did not take into account the Heritage Committee’s report even though Shifting Paradigms addressed a number of issues relevant to the current review of the Act, and even though it was commissioned by INDU when it invited the Heritage Committee to conduct a companion study on remuneration models for artists and creative industries, and to provide INDU with a summary of its findings. The Heritage Committee did just that although in the form of a report to Parliament, as is its right, rather than through a direct submission to the INDU Committee. Continue reading “Copyright Review in Canada: INDU Committee Issues Clumsy and Tone-Deaf “We’re in Charge” Press Release”

The USMCA/CUSMA and Intellectual Property: Canada Wins

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The government of Justin Trudeau is now moving quickly with legislation to ratify the new trilateral North American trade agreement in the wake of the announcement last month that the Trump Administration would lift the steel and aluminum tariffs that were imposed on Canada (and Mexico) in June 2018 on ostensible “national security” grounds. Yes, aluminum and steel from Canada (and other US allies) apparently threaten US national security according to the justification for the tariffs put forward by the US Administration and imposed during the NAFTA 2.0 negotiations. Continue reading “The USMCA/CUSMA and Intellectual Property: Canada Wins”

Copyright Review in Canada: The Second Shoe Drops

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In the ongoing process of Canada’s copyright review, the “second shoe” has dropped and, as expected, the thud as it landed on the floor of the House of Commons was different from that of its companion report, Shifting Paradigms, the report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage tabled on May 15 of this year. This most recent report delivered by the INDU Committee (officially known as the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology) on June 3 contains thirty-six recommendations. As I noted in an earlier blog posting on Shifting Paradigms, it is not surprising that a number of the INDU Committee’s recommendations are not fully consistent with those of the Heritage Committee; indeed some of them are directly inconsistent. In some cases, the two committees come to similar conclusions but propose different remedies. In a couple of cases, the recommendations are identical. Now the government will have to take both reports into consideration as it decides how to move forward with any changes to legislation. It has 120 days to respond in writing to the report. All of this will be subsumed by a general election on October 21, which will decide whether the current Liberal government will be dealing with the recommendations or someone else. Continue reading “Copyright Review in Canada: The Second Shoe Drops”

Google in Australia: Sudden Conversion or Tactical Manoeuvre?

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In news coming out of Australia, it has been reported that Google has voluntarily agreed to de-index several hundred websites that distribute pirated audio-visual content. This will make it more difficult although not impossible for Australian consumers to access these sites. Village Roadshow Chairman Graham Burke, Australia’s most prominent anti-piracy crusader, has been reported as saying, with regard to Google, “We’ve gone from being enemies to being allies”. That’s quite a transformation. Continue reading “Google in Australia: Sudden Conversion or Tactical Manoeuvre?”

Obituary Piracy Punished: Has Infringement No Bounds?

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A couple of months ago I put up a blog posting about copyright and its intersection with that most universal of human conditions, our finite time on this earth. OK, let’s call it by its real name, death, something that we all have to deal with sooner or later. In that blog, after discussing the issue of how copyright protection extends for a specified period of time after the passing of the author, a term of protection generating economic benefit for the author’s estate which can vary in length by country, I referred to the case of a website that was operating in Canada called Afterlife. If you can believe it, the operators of this site were running a business based on the unauthorized postings of obituaries that they harvested from newspapers and the websites of funeral homes. The business model consisted of selling virtual candles and other forms of remembrance for the departed, all without any authorization from the family of the deceased. Since most obituaries are creations (personal descriptions of a person’s life), they enjoy the protection of copyright, so Afterlife’s business model was not only tasteless and an invasion of privacy but also a violation of copyright law. Now the law has caught up with the operators of the site. Continue reading “Obituary Piracy Punished: Has Infringement No Bounds?”

Canadian Copyright Reform: “Shifting Paradigms” Report Released—An Important Milestone, But Not Yet the Final Destination

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On May 15, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage tabled its report, “Shifting Paradigms”, in fulfilment of its mandate to study remuneration models for artists and creative industries. This study forms part of the legislative review of Canada’s Copyright Act being led by another Parliamentary Committee, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (AKA the INDU Committee). The Heritage Committee was composed of Members of Parliament from all major political parties, and was chaired, as is normal, by a member representing the government. The report’s conclusions and recommendations are bipartisan (there was no dissenting report other than commentary from a member of the New Democratic Party that the Committee did not go far enough in its recommendations to protect creators). In all 22 recommendations were made, most of them music to the ears of the copyright community. Lawyer Barry Sookman has done an excellent job of summarizing the findings and process here. Continue reading “Canadian Copyright Reform: “Shifting Paradigms” Report Released—An Important Milestone, But Not Yet the Final Destination”

Online Book Piracy: “An Offence Against Moral Justice”

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These were the words used by Philip Pullman, President of the Society of Authors in Britain, in support of a letter to UK Business Secretary Greg Clark, co-signed by over thirty other prominent British authors. The letter pointed out that one in six e-books read online in the UK, about four million books, was pirated annually, with the author receiving no remuneration for his or her efforts. The letter goes on to say that the growth of online book piracy will potentially damage the overall market for books in the UK and make it even more difficult for authors, who on average earn only around 10,500 Pounds (USD $13,700) annually, to make a living and will be a disincentive to the creation of new content. The Society of Authors letter stops short of calling for specific remedies but calls on the British government to “take action against the blight of online book piracy”. Continue reading “Online Book Piracy: “An Offence Against Moral Justice””