I can't remember how much I've talked about this here on my journal (I always have great intentions to post about this but I know I don't follow through as much as I should) but today I want to talk about Canadian copyright laws.
Don't fall asleep yet! I promise to try keep this to the point. The thing is, we're all in fandom so whether we like it or not, we all have to deal with intellectual property laws/copyright laws. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about fandom and copyright going around. Groups like the OTW have done a great job shedding light on the legality of things like fandom, however they are an American based organization and Canadian laws are very different.
We've all heard about the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), right? The American law that increased penalties for copyright infringements and criminalized circumvention measures.
We all know that it has not been great for the US. Included in this law are provisions making it illigal to access copyrighted materials, even if the reason you're accessing the copyrighted materials is legal (ex. Vidding is a transformative work under the American Fair Use laws, however ripping a DVD to get your hands on the copyrighted material is illegal if you had to break a Digital Rights Management (DRM) lock).
The DMCA has also opened the doors to a lot of abuse, the SFWA fiasco comes to mind.
Even though these laws are no where near perfect the US government has been pressuring other countries to adopt similar measures. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is primarily being driven by the US. Which, despite it's name is not actually about counterfeiting so much as it's about copyright. This agreement threatens to drastically change IP laws around the world and has negative impacts such as 3-strike rules and would prevent (currently legal) life saving medicines from reaching people in need in 3rd world countries.
The US government has really been pushing Canada to strengthen our IP/Copyright laws. Going so far as to put Canada on it's Special 301 Report (a list of countries whose IP laws they consider inadequate) despite the fact that, in many ways, Canadian copyright law is already stronger (and not in a good way) than American copyright law.
The Canadian government has tried a few times to change our laws in favour of rights holders but public outcry has held off those changes. Last year, when there was talk of revising Bill C-61 public outcry had the government hold off any changes while a public consultation was held. With over 8100 submissions, that consultation had more feedback from the public than any other consultation (most consultations get about 100 responses) (source).
Today it was announced, that despite the public outcry Prime Minister Harper and Heritage Minister James Moore have decided to put forward a DMCA-style bill on copyright.
This is not good news. When copyright was first invented it was intended to proved creators with a livlihood while still granting the general public a chance to interact with the works. Fandom is the very spirit of that idea. The media we consume, the art we see, the music we listen to, it all influences our culture. It defines who we are as people, as Canadians. Copyright is supposed to be a balance of creator's rights as well as consumers rights. The trends of the past century has been shifting that balance to the side of the creators. If Canada adopts stronger, DMCA-style laws, consumer rights will be deminished even further.
Yes, the bill hasn't been made public yet. It might not even have been written yet. Some say that it's too soon to react, I say this is the perfect time to get involved. Let the Conservative government know that we, as consumers, don't want our rights deminished. Let them know we don't want DMCA-type laws. There is a better way.
If you are Canadian and want to protect your rights as a consumer, please consider writing into your MP, to MP James Moore and to PM Stephen Harper. Remember, physical letters have more weight than emails and that you don't need to use a stamp when sending mail to a Member of Parliament.
Prime Minister Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Heritage Minister James Moore
House of Commons
Please also contact your MP. You can find their contact information by searching under your postal code here.
If you would like further information on Canadian copyright, or if you'd like to follow updates on this matter, here are some great resources:
-Michael Geist is a law professor at the University of Ottawa, he holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. He is an internationally recognized expert on copyright law and has been fighting for fair copyright for years. (I follow Michael Geist on Twitter)
If you're not Canadian but are interested in international copyright law, he has a lot of info on ACTA that's worth following and which has a lot of international links.
-Fair Copyright for Canada is a Facebook group 85,000+ members strong. I know there's a lot of indecision over whether or not Facebook groups hold any power but it's a number to point to and will also have relevant information on various local protests (if there are any).
-Explore Music is Alan Cross' website. As per the name, it's mostly about music however Alan also keeps on top of Canadian copyright laws and fights for fair copyright, which is something different coming from the music industry. (I follow Alan Cross on Twitter)
Please spread the word on this issue. Feel free to link to this post and ask any questions you may have in the comments. I may not have all the answers right away but between me and kronos999 we can generally find answers.
(sorry this got kind of long but it's something I feel passionate about)