Canadian Parliament shoutfest over the Canadian DMCA

Yesterday, Canada's Parliament rocked with a ferocious debate between NDP Member of Parliament Charlie Angus and Tory Minister of Industry Jim Prentice. At issue was Canada's new copyright law, Bill C61, the Canadian DMCA. Angus asked the Minister why he is granting legal protection to DRM, even when that DRM overrules the copyright freedoms being guaranteed under the bill. The Minister refused to answer the question -- he just kept shouting that his law allows for backups and format-shifting, refusing to say anything about how the DRM rules make all those rights moot. Link


  1. Quite amazing the degree of utter contempt this Prentice has for Canadians. Breath-taking really.

  2. Brilliant, thanks so much for keeping the spotlight on this debate Cory. I contacted various MPs the last time this bill saw the light of day, I hope to do the same this time around – although its difficult to draw my attention to that during the few months of actual summer Winnipeg experiences.

    I am very glad to see Mr. Angus and the NDP pledging to go toe to toe, and quite deftly nonetheless, against the Conservatives to quash this attempted overreach. Although, Prentice does certainly win points for that clever, and well delivered ‘NDP bs’ line.

  3. a) Canadian Parliament looks like soo much fun! have you ever watched cspan in america?

    b) this Prentice guy seems like an american politician. dodge every question and respond with generic talking points.

    c) can you guys send Mr. Angus to america? i think we could use him to fight all the lame policy making that is running wild in DC.

    (think he knows much about offshore oil drilling?)

  4. Tories answer with what sounds good, they don’t answer the question because that would get the hung from the rafters.

  5. Gotta love the NDP. They know they’ll never form the government so they have nothing to lose by sticking their finger in the government’s eye

  6. It’s those damn CENTRISTS that drive ME insane! Them and their blasted moderation (no offence to moderators…)

  7. It could not be more clear that Prentice knows this bill is indefensible. I’ve yet to hear him answer a direct question with anything more than his “made-in-Canada” and “format-shifting” talking points, or digs at Michael Geist.

    Cronan, you can tell a difference? The only difference I’ve seen is that the Cons are better at keeping things under wraps. I got sick and tired of voting defensively a few years ago after attending a repulsive town hall meeting involving Bill Graham (who had a shouting match with my wife on Front Street over health care). I started voting Green. Might as well start voting for what you believe in, instead of against what you don’t.

  8. Andrew, it has always pissed me off to no end hearing people say “I’m voting Liberal because I’m afraid the conservatives will get in power.” or vice versa.

    One should NEVER vote strategically, that’s how we’d end up getting stuck with a two-party system like the Americans have. Always vote your conscience, ALWAYS.

  9. hey GNB – keep your hands off Charlie Angus, we need him! he’s a rare voice of good sense in our parliament.

    in his earlier years he fronted a very good (politically progressive) alt-country band called the Grievous Angels. I don’t think he knows much about off-shore drilling, but as a kid from Northern Ontario, he knows a heck of a lot about mining…

  10. I am amazed how entertaining their government is up there. At first I thought it was fake – there’s people yelling and standing up all the time. Turn to CSPAN and it’s nothing like that -everyone is half asleep.

  11. #10 Ironix, while in principle that sounds like a wonderful proposition—voting your heart—it doesn’t always work out the way you expect.

    For example, it makes absolute sense to vote for your favourite party in uncompetitive ridings (i.e. ridings in which one party is assured the win); however, there are cases when strategic voting has a much better outcome than voting for who you actually want.

    Suppose you are an NDP supporter in a riding where the NDP is polling at 5%, while the Conservatives and Liberals are polling at 45%. Now suppose that of those two parties, you are most against Conservative policy. Because the polls are so close, it would only make sense to vote Liberal because your vote would actually count towards the outcome and might make the difference between a Conservative MP and a Liberal MP (and possibly the formation of the government).

    This is obviously not an ideal situation, but I don’t see any sort of proportional representation on the horizon for Canada.

    During recent elections, I have followed the DemocraticSPACE strategic voting guide, which aggregates polling data and produces recommendations based on your first and second preferences.

  12. As has been said by other ‘Mericans, this Parliamentary session looks like some kind of game show or comedy hour or both. Still glad to hear vocal opposition.

  13. Lol – they get the boisterousness from the UK parliament, although there’s a definite added Canadian flair. (They’re also all about shouting people up or down as they speak – it’s all “hear, hear” or “shame, shame”.)

    So, is only the minority far-left party opposed to it, or will the majority centre-left party join them and kill it?

  14. The audio synch is atrocious. This wasn’t in english originally? Look like a bad voice-dub of Godzilla.

  15. Thanks for the post! The “Minister of 8-tracks” is way off and clearly doesn’t understand his own bill.

    Americans: this is pretty normal for parliament. On television, you can’t even hear most of the heckling.

  16. @ #17: “So, is only the minority far-left party opposed to it, or will the majority centre-left party join them and kill it?”

    The Liberals? Good question. Now that you mention it, they’ve been pretty quiet about this.

    Maybe it’s just because they’re busy pushing their (superior, if a little extreme) environmental agenda.

    I hope it’s not for a more sinister reason…!

  17. liberal, conservative – conservative, liberal: a traditional Canadian choice: Be raped and beaten or beaten and raped.

  18. I’ve always felt that the best indicator of a politician knowing their argument is shaky is when they keep blathering the same broken- record responses to every question.

    Makes them sound like Miss North Carolina sometimes.

  19. #17, Keiran, The Canadian Parliament is pretty evenly divided across four parties presently. It pretty much depends on the separatist party of Quebec, the Bloc, which regularly props up the Conservatives.

  20. As usual, Takuan makes coffee come out my nose.

    Seriously though, does anyone know where Ti-Dion stands on this issue? And if the Liberals fight this, will they be willing to stand up to a confidence vote?

    I hope there hasn’t been some backroom bargaining between the red and the blue to let this pass.

  21. The Honourable Minister of Industry (that’s sometimes hard to say) gives us just further proof the reason it’s called Question Period and not Answer Period.
    Of course, since he’s OBVIOUSLY lied in Parliament about what the bill will and will not do (or allow), it would be best for everyone to call him a liar, however, that of course will result in a lawsuit. Whether or not there’s proof, lawsuits seem to have become the way this government has decided to prop itself up.


    The flaw in your argument is that polls are not a perfect predictor of election results. In fact, not only can they be wrong, but they can also influence the very state of affairs they seek to describe (similar to the uncertainty principle and observer effect of quantum physics).

  23. “So, is only the minority far-left party opposed to it, or will the majority centre-left party join them and kill it?”
    Hunh? You’d claim the Liberals (remember, that’s a party name, not at all the same as the stupid distorted label (a)used by american politicos) are centre-left? Wow. Personally I’d have to rate them as noticeably right, the Tories as Whackaloon-Right-Hang’em-Flog’em-Keepthepoorpoor ad the NDP as Slightlyleftwing-Union-Industial.

  24. Here’s a form letter coming back to people who write to their MP’s:

    “The Government of Canada has introduced Bill C-61 (An Act to Amend the Copyright Act). The proposed legislation is a made-in-Canada approach that balances the needs of Canadian consumers and copyright owners, promoting culture, innovation and competition in the digital age.

    What does Bill C-61 mean to Canadians?
    Specifically, it includes measures that would:

    * expressly allow you to record TV shows for later viewing; copy legally purchased music onto other devices, such as MP3 players or cell phones; make back-up copies of legally purchased books, newspapers, videocassettes and photographs onto devices you own; and limit the “statutory damages” a court could award for all private use copyright infringements;

    * implement new rights and protections for copyright holders, tailored to the Internet, to encourage participation in the online economy, as well as stronger legal remedies to address Internet piracy

    * clarify the roles and responsibilities of Internet Service Providers related to the copyright content flowing over their network facilities

    * provide photographers with the same rights as other creators

    What Bill C-61 does not do:

    * it would not empower border agents to seize your iPod or laptop at border crossings, contrary to recent public speculation

    What this Bill is not:

    * it is not a mirror image of U.S. copyright laws. Our Bill is made-in-Canada with different exceptions for educators, consumers and others and brings us into line with more than 60 countries including Japan, France, Germany and Australia

    Bill C-61 was introduced in the Commons on June 12, 2008 by Industry Minister Jim Prentice and Heritage Minister Josée Verner.

    For more information, please visit the Copyright Reform Process website at

    Thank you for sharing your views on this important matter.

    The Honourable Josée Verner
    Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages and Minister for La Francophonie

    The Honourable Jim Prentice
    Minister of Industry”

  25. Regarding decorum in parliment: It’s ‘lively’ enough that the local paper runs a Civility Index every day, reporting on whether our political representatives were quiet, non-interrupting, and respectful, or all the way to physically aggressive, verbally abusive, and just generally being poop-flinging monkeys.

    I don’t think we’ve had a direct assault in parliment in ages (correct me if I’m wrong, I’d love to hear about it) but papers have been thrown, and female MPs have been compared to dogs by male MPs.

    The usual joke is that the aisles are so wide to stop opposing parties from punching each other in the face.

  26. The most disturbing thing about this exchange is how they both keep on referring to “Canadian consumers.” What about the Canadian *citizen*? I’m not a cultural termite, gnawing away at the entertainment tree, I’m a goddamned citizen of my country and of the world. How much time and money I spend on entertainment should be a distant and secondary consideration to these buffoons in Ottawa. (Tho’ much respect to Angus all the same!)

  27. @28
    The last one I remember was about 5 years ago. At least to where an apology was actually forced out of a guy. I don’t remember the exact details, but the words…oh the words. He had asked a question, which wasn’t answered. He followed up by asking if the Minister had the gonads or fortitude to answer the question previously posed. “Gonads and Fortitude”. I seem to remember at the time, the person said they would NOT apologize until the Minister answered the question, and, barring an answer, didn’t have to anyways because his speech WITHIN the chamber is protected. I don’t know if this has been changed, but within the chamber you could get away with a lot of things, but OUTSIDE, you can be held liable for anything you say (slander and the like…).

  28. #28 The usual joke is that the aisles are so wide to stop opposing parties from punching each other in the face.

    I once read that the distance between the benches is equal to two sword lengths, based on ancient British parliamentary tradition to prevent opponents from slashing each other to ribbons. And green is supposedly the dominant color of the floor and seats in honour of the first British parliaments being held outdoors on grass.

  29. Damn…. I’m voting NDP next time around!
    Charlie Angus is the kind of loud and kickass guy that demands answers that I want speaking for me!

    Too bad he’s not in my riding and we got this Daryl kramp guy who’s a PC and sucks royally.

  30. I used to be pretty conservative… But, What is really important to me is the free flow of information and the freedom to tinker and innovate.

    I so wish their was someone like that in America, I would vote for them in a heartbeat.

  31. @36 DQD:

    t jst s hppns tht thr s smn lk tht rnnng fr prsdnt n mrc.

    Pls flks dn’t trn ths nt flmwr bt th lctn – jst wnt t nt smthng N TPC bt bm. H cnslts wth Lwrnc Lssg n tch plcy nstd f lbbysts nd hs wrttn tchnlgy pln tht s bt kpng th nt pn nd pnng th gvrnmnt wth tch.

    fnd t bt ths n th xkcd blg hr

    whch hs lnk t bms pln hr:

    nt syng wh y shld vt fr, thrs plnty f thr sss t cnsdr fr tht. jst pntng t tht n ths ss, bng bng frnds lk lssg nd xkcd fl lk thr s cnddt wth th rght d.

  32. Sorry brooklyntwang,

    But we don’t allow blatant political propaganda in comment threads, and certainly not US political propaganda in a thread about Canadian politics.

  33. #26 Boba Fett Diop: No, polls are not an exact science; however, taken on aggregate they are a good predictor of the election outcomes. Not a perfect indicator, but a good-enough predictor if you take into consideration the margin of error. Where interpretations can go wrong is in reading too-close-to-call races as straightforward wins for one candidate; I don’t agree with that and I am careful not to base my decisions on a +/- 5% polling number.

    While I agree that polls may have an undue effect on election outcomes, I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon, and people aren’t going to ignore them because we want them to. The more rational approach is to use the polls to our advantage. I linked to DemocraticSPACE before, and they provide an important service (to me, at least). They have 3 principles they follow when recommending strategic voting:

    1. It must be a close 2-way race (i.e. the two other parties must be within 5%)
    2. The [party of choice] chances of winning riding are remote (i.e. [party of choice] support less than 25%)
    3. Small number of [party of choice] votes will make a difference (i.e. less than 1 in 3 voters)

    I think those are fair criteria for voting strategically. Essentially, if your vote has no chance of counting, vote with your heart. If the race is close and you have a preference between the top two parties, vote your preference to tip the scales.

    I generally vote for one of the third parties in elections; I’ve used this system for three elections, and so far I have yet to cast a vote for the Libs or Cons (probably because the ridings I have occupied in the Greater Toronto Area have either been overwhelmingly Lib or Con).

  34. politicians fear the web. They are ignorant and do not feel safe as they do with conventional media. They can’t judge how long it will take to bury a truth or let a righteous outcry die a natural death. They fear the thousand anonymous voices condemning them that can’t be silenced with traditional legal thugs. Supporting restrictive policies such as this just feels right to them. It consoles them that they might still manage the cattle and escape detection. They are not going to stop trying to kill a free web and a population with free power to move and exchange data. They must change. We are not going to.

  35. I can’t help but love Prentice’s argument at the end – that C-61 is good because it means Canadians will be permitted to format-shift, time-shift, and all that other fun stuff. The implication being, of course, that activities are prohibited until they are codified in law.

    Granted, I don’t imagine that’s foremost in Prentice’s mind, but I think it provides a nice little window to the underlying structure of it all.

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