There is No Two without Three: Bill C-32 is Dead

There is No Two without Three: Bill C-32 is Dead

Giuseppina D’Agostino is the Founder and Director of IP Osgoode, and an Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.

It’s true what they say: there is no two without three. With Harper’s visit to the Governor General today, the Canadian Government, or rather, the government that has insisted it be addressed as  “the Harper Government” is dissolved and so die its many bills, including Bill C-32, Canada’s most recent attempt at copyright reform.  Bill C-32 was introduced on June 2, 2010, as the Copyright Modernization Act

The two previous incarnations of the Bill were Bill C-61, tabled in June 2008, and Bill C-60, tabled in June 2005.  Bill C-61 died before second reading, when in September 2008 an election was called.  Bill C-60 also died before second reading when a non-confidence vote brought down Parliament in November 2005.  Bill C-32 squeaked through Parliament the furthest. It passed second reading in the House and made it to a Legislative Committee where Parliamentarians were meant to study the Bill.  See our reporting on some of the hearings here and here as well as my opening remarks to the Legislative Committee on December 1, 2010.

For over a decade now, Canada has made attempts to amend the Copyright Act, mainly in order to meet its obligations under two World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties:  the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.  Both treaties were adopted by WIPO members in 1996.

When Bill C-32 was introduced, one might say the Canadian mood was generally hopeful.  As I wrote at the beginning of last summer, from an initial impression of the Bill, the government had taken seriously the need to consider a variety of copyright voices. Despite the Bill’s various shortcomings and unintended consequences, many thought that with some rehabilitation Canada would get a new copyright act passed, finally.  Now that another bill has died on the order paper, it will be months before another bill is introduced and the legislative process will technically have to start from scratch.  The new government will be privy to years of feedback and no doubt renewed attempts by all to make their positions heard.

One exercise that is well worth making in the interim is to understand the copyright law that we do have and what it already says or does not say on the many issues we want to change, in light of our ever-evolving copyright practices. To kick things off, in a few weeks, while we will be in the middle of an election, I will be chairing a panel that will look more practically to issues like fair dealing, user-generated content, secondary liability and technological protection measures and assess what might have been, what is and what could and should be.

At that same conference, I will be speaking on freelance author issues that continue to go unresolved, as is clear from Nino Ricci’s latest post. In my book, Copyright, Contracts, Creators: New Media, New Rules (see review), I say that copyright law needs to do better. My hope is that the new government will do something about it in the next round.