CCA Bulletin 04/12 C-11 Legislative Committee on copyright: week one  March 5, 2012


The first week of consultations on Bill C-11 saw the first 24 witnesses invited to present their views. The process is moving quickly and will continue at this pace as the government fast tracks the Bill. All witnesses will be heard by March 14, then it will go into clause by clause debate by the committee and the Bill sent back to the House of Commons by March 29. There were a few hot topic issues that had the MPs making accusatory comments across floor and asking the witnesses some very specific questions. Nonetheless the Committee proceeded in a very orderly fashion under the Chairmanship of NDP MP Glenn Thibeault.

Panels are generally set up so that two sides of an issue can be heard simultaneously. Government MPs spent most of their allotted time questioning users, keeping their tougher questions for rights owners, while Opposition members generally did the reverse. Economic impacts on either sides of the arguments; how license fees are set; the relevance of collective licensing; the confusion between different property rights (‘having to pay twice for the same thing’), and whether class notes needed to be destroyed after 30 day were all issues raised, often with much confusion. The moral rights of creators were discussed but most arguments regarding tariffs and royalties focused on the capacity to pay of the people who make money using other people’s property. At the core of all this was the debate about educational exemptions and fair dealing, private copying rights and broadcast mechanical ephemeral rights.

The next meeting is scheduled for today (Monday) at 3:30 and is available to watch online.


Most MPs seem quite knowledgeable on copyright and the issues surrounding it. Some have referred to their personal experience, such as NDP MPs Andrew Cash and Charlie Angus in music and CPC MP Scott Armstrong in education.

Committee members asked targeted questions to support their own positions on the various aspects of the Bill. Some used alarmist paraphrasing of witness’s positions on topics such as levies and mechanical rights. Others asked broadcasters why they do not recognize the value to their business of paying for the music they use or the various copies they make, since we are talking about the right to use or copy. Yet another questioned the importance of smaller royalty payments to struggling musicians since successful musicians are getting most of the revenue perceived and they most likely do not need the support! Often, the basic concepts underlying copyright are pushed aside in the search for politically balanced solutions, apparently based on the principle that making as many stakeholders equally unhappy is the yardstick of a good copyright law.


Tuesday saw a lot of confusion around the nicknamed “book burning clause”, a topic on which the Committee spent a lot of time. That led to some arguing between the MPs as the Chair fought to maintain order. The disagreement led to one witness from the Association of Canadian Community Colleges to say “How do you expect me to give an opinion on the matter when even you can’t agree on the interpretation of this clause!”

Most legal experts heard maintained that this section should not raise too much concern as it does not apply to course notes but only to materials that would otherwise infringe copyright if they didn’t fall under the education exemption. But according to the writing/publishing industries, this is precisely the exemption that will harm if not kill the Canadian writing/publishing industry in which governments have recently invested over $25 million to develop digital markets. How long and how costly will it be for that industry to bring a case of unfair dealing by some education institution all the way to the Supreme Court? And even then, what to expect considering that the same Supreme Court has created the notion of user rights out of thin air and already stated that in interpreting fair dealing, the damage to the right owner’s business is only one consideration, and not necessarily the most important! Viewed from that angle, one understands the worries of Canadian writers and publishers.

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