Canada's DMCA: unnecessary, ill-starred and doomed

Charlie Angus, a Member of Parliament with Canada's New Democratic Party, has written a blistering open letter to Industry Minister Jim Prentice over the issue of Prentice's proposal to ram through a Canadian version of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Prentice has consistently refused to allow public consultation into his bill, and instead has drafted a kind of wish-list representing the fondest fantasies of US entertainment giants.

Prentice argues that this law must be enacted to meet Canada's international obligations under the World Intellectual Property Organization's WIPO Copyright Treaty of 1996, but this is just not true, as Angus points out.

Instead of marching off the same cliff that the US fell off of in 1998 with its DMCA, Canada could adopt a balanced copyright approach that will pay artists without criminalizing the public:

As a follow-up to this Three Step approach I am offering Jim Prentice some thoughts regarding WIPO obligations. Minister Jim Prentice needs to come clean with the Canadian public over the fact that restrictive, U.S. style DMCA legislation is not synonymous with ratifying the WIPO treaty. Under international trade obligations Canada could ratify WIPO and still maintain a wide variety of choices of how to go about setting up appropriate copyright legislation for the 21st-century. We are in no way obligated to go down the same dead end road as the United States with their restrictive legislation.

However, if Mr. Prentice is going to let Canadian copyright legislation be written by U.S. trade interests he will certainly face a major backlash from both artist’s organizations, consumers and Canadian business groups. Put simply, he can’t pretend that restrictive DMCA legislation is being forced on us because of WIPO obligations.

Let's be clear -- Canada as a signatory to WIPO is under no obligation to go further. As a signatory we simply have to commit that we will not undermine the principles of the treaty. Ratifying or not ratifying is entirely up to the discretion of individual countries.

As the WIPO documents themselves state: “The effect of signature is not, of course, to bind the signatory State…It is only the ratification of the Convention by an existing member State which has signed the Convention, or accession to the Convention by a new member State, which creates an international legal obligation.”

Link (via Michael Geist)


  1. just more willful vandalism on the way out. Canada, like America at the moment, is in the process of tossing out criminal government. It is the same dynamic anywhere; the scoundrels and thieves hear the burglar alarm ringing and jam as much into their pockets as will fit and urinate on the furniture before running out the door. The DRM mess will be cleaned up later – at great expense.

  2. I agree Agent 86. It’s definitely fighting the hydra.

    I suggest we go with an Herculean solution, chop off Jim Prentice’s head and burn the stump with a torch.

    (filling his mouth with holy wafers and salt and sewing it shut before quartering his body and burying the parts, with a stake through his heart, would probably be a good idea too . . . . just in case.)


  3. Charlie Angus’s article is blistering, but not strong. It speaks
    repeatedly about “obligations” under the WIPO Copyright Treaty; but
    there is no need to fulfull any such “obligations”, because Canada
    should not sign this treaty in the first place. No country should.

    It’s true that the treaty doesn’t go as far as the DMCA, but it is
    nonetheless bad. (One must expect this from the organization which
    popularized the propaganda term “intellectual property”; see Where the DMCA forbids
    all distribution of free software to break DRM (Digital Restrictions
    Management), the treaty forbids only commercial distribution. That is
    still wrong.

    DRM is typically imposed on the public by a conspiracy of companies
    intended to restrict the technology available to the public. Instead
    of supporting these conspiracies with the WIPO Copyright Treaty, it
    should make such conspiracy a crime.

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