18 U.S. Senators have withdrawn their support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) due to an overwhelmingly negative online reaction, including a Google petition that garnered over 4.5M signatures and the Wikipedia-led blackout of over 7,000 popular websites.
Here in Canada, Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act is slowly making its way through the halls of power. Although it has been spoken to seven times already since October in the House of Commons as part of its Second Reading, and is still a long way from becoming law. But given the overwhelming support that Conservatives have shown for its passage and their majorities in both the House of Commons and the Senate, Canada might succeed in compromising the freedom of the internet where the U.S. has failed through SOPA.
University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist is the best Canadian reference to the ins and outs of our arcane copyright law. He runs a fantastic blog that outlines the contemporary history of copyright law in Canada, and how the Conservatives have been attempting to modify this in the past two years or more. (I won’t bother summarizing — if this is something you want to know more about, go straight to the source and visit his blog. You can also visit the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights for more information.)
But for an interesting summary of why the Conservatives are proposing to move forward with this legislation now, I would recommend reading this excerpt from Paul Calandra, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
During second reading of the bill, Calandra said the following on December 12, 2011:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to our copyright reform legislation. This is our third attempt at bringing this very important legislation forward and get it passed through this place. In those attempts, we had spoken with hundreds of thousands of Canadians. We have heard from people from across the country. The House has heard hundreds of hours of debate. At committee, we have spent an equally long time speaking about the issues with respect to Canada’s copyright reform.
We know that the legislation is extraordinarily important to the Canadian economy. It is very important that we bring forward legislation that brings us in line with international standards. We have heard from people and creators in my riding, particularly in the video game industry, who have been calling on us to ensure that we can actually get this copyright legislation passed through the House, so that they can compete on a fair and level playing field with everybody else.
The legislation is important to hundreds of thousands of Canadians. It helps protect Canadian jobs. It balances the rights of consumers with our creators. This is the type of legislation that we need to ensure that Canada’s economic recovery continues and that Canada continues to lead the G7 in terms of economic productivity.
We know that creators and consumers across the country are looking to the House to show some leadership.
What is phenomenal to consider is the Conservative dedication to framing any and all issues within the context of rescuing the Canadian economy from the depths of global recession, and their continued insistence on most issues to fall as quickly in line with the U.S. stance as possible. (Except when U.S. money supports environmentalists in their campaign against the oilsands — then U.S. opinion and money has no place whatever within Canada. But only then.)
So since the U.S. has backed off SOPA for further review, can we expect a similar redaction from the Canadian government? Likely not, especially considering CBC is reporting via WikiLeaks that some of the impetus for the bill was U.S. pressure on Canada follow their lead. This is what the bill means when it says it “brings us in line with international standards” —U.S. standards that the Conservatives assumed would pass until 18 U.S. Senators backed off.
I would love to know the “consumers” are that are craving “leadership” from the CPC on this issue, let alone to video gamers who crave further online regulation.
Should there be any misconceptions about what Bill C-11 means to the Conservative government, look no further than the summary:
(a) update the rights and protections of copyright owners to better address the challenges and opportunities of the Internet, so as to be in line with international standards; (b) clarify Internet service providers’ liability and make the enabling of online copyright infringement itself an infringement of copyright;
This is about making sure the “rights and protections of copyright owners” are upheld to protect and maximize profits. And to make sure it’s as easy as possible to provide that protection, they will give themselves the right to go after internet service providers with the deepest pockets. All this to ensure ISP’s know they are liable when people use their services for the purpose of infringing upon a company’s copyrights, and may be forced to reveal who those individuals are.
It’s about money. And it’s about corporations using the government to force consumers to pay, one way or another, for copyrighted material. They, after all, will always find a way to get theirs.