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."


(via Michael Geist)