Media @ McGill

Copyright Reform in Canada: Geist Mobilizes, Conservatives Back-Off (for now)

Submitted by claire on
English

By Jeremy Shtern


Michael Geist, web 2.0, Canadians and public opinion have all mobilized against a proposed Canadian Digital Milieum Copy Right Act (DMCA).

For years, successive Canadian governments have been dragging their heals on copyright reform against mounting pressure from rights holders and the US government to institute copyright law in Canada that mirrors the US DMCA. Over the course of the last few weeks, the introduction of a Canadian DMCA seemed imminent and indications were that it would go even further than its US counterpart in limiting "fair use" exemptions and authorizing the use of restrictive technologies such as "digital locks" on copyrighted material.

"In the process", University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist argues, the Canadian DMCA will "create real harm to education, libraries, privacy, security research, freedom of speech and Canadian consumers".

Using a series of web 2.0 tools including: his influential blog (http://www.michaelgeist.ca/); a youtube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8jE31Dp7jo)
and, a facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6315846683) [note: login required], Geist is contributing to a massive mobilization of Canadians against the proposed copyright reforms.

By December 13, 2007-- the date on which the Canadian DMCA was scheduled to be introduced in the house of commons-- membership in Geist's facebook group numbered more than 15 000, his youtube video had been viewed almost 7000 times, numerous other videos featuring objections of Canadians to the proposed bill had been uploaded to youtube (see for example,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ln8dS22M9Gs) and untold numbers of letters of concern about the direction of copyright law in Canada had been sent to politicians.

In related news, the Harper government did not introduce a new copyright bill on December 13 as it had planned to do and, has publicly announced that it no longer intends to do so until January 2008 at the earliest. For his part, Geist argues that this is a key moment for copyright reform in Canada and that the Government should "work toward a genuine copyright balance by reaching out to all Canadians. An astonishing number of people have voiced their concern over the past two weeks and the government seems to have listened. Now it must act by openly consulting and engaging with a country that genuinely cares about copyright."

For there to be any hope for such a result, continued diligence and further coordinated activism is required.


Jeremy Shtern is a PhD candidate (ABD), département de communication, Université de Montréal.