Prior to my placement at the Department of Canadian Heritage, Copyright and International Trade Policy Branch as part of Osgoode's Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program I had a fairly limited understanding of copyright law. I thought I at least knew the basics. And while I am certainly no expert now, my time at Canadian Heritage gave me the opportunity to dig deep into the bowels of the Copyright Act and gain a real understanding of how ubiquitous copyright law really is. Is there really a better place to learn about copyright than in the heart of the government’s copyright policy branch? What I learned during the placement far exceeded anything I could have learned in the classroom.
During the 10 weeks I had an opportunity to sharpen my legal analysis and research skills and practiced, daily, the principles of statutory interpretation. I polished my legal writing abilities and had the occasion to present part of my research to interested government departments. I appreciated having this experience to share my research but more importantly to have other departments share their knowledge in a lively discussion of the issues. On a day-to-day basis I was impressed with the collaborative environment of the branch. Many of the more indispensable learning opportunities came from informal conversations with colleagues regarding points of research, clarification on issues or deliberations regarding interpretation.
The collegial environment at the office made the transition and integration very easy. Everyone is supportive, thoughtful and very welcoming. It didn’t hurt that there were a few Osgoode grads (and IP Intensive program alumni) in the office, which is a testament to how successful the IP Intensive Program is for the students involved but also to the participating organizations. I could not have joined government at a better time. The election was held in the middle of my placement and it was a great environment to be in during the final few weeks of campaigning. Change has meant a “crash course” in the inner workings of government and to see all of the work that goes into preparing for (what ended up being) a new government and a new Minister. I was fortunate to have been able to contribute in a minor way and it was a great experience to see the level of detail and work that goes into this preparation. The weekly “watercooler” meetings were a great opportunity to hear what everyone was working on, to discuss interesting developments in copyright, and to learn more about the future work of the branch. The meetings were also a great way to see how my assignments fit into the larger vision and direction of the department.
It was not all work and no play. Although being placed in Ottawa meant being away from my home in Toronto, it had the distinct advantage of having exceptionally affordable hockey tickets. I was able to convince a few of my colleagues to join me so that I didn’t have to go see the Redwings play the Senators by myself. I also enjoyed a weekend afternoon at the National Gallery of Canada and I was also able to attend the Remembrance Day service at the War Memorial. This was such a special experience. Being a part of the large crowd, the service was a touching moment of remembrance and gratitude. One of the only disappointments I have about my time in Ottawa is that I didn’t have the opportunity to skate on the canal in the winter. There is something oh so Canadian about being able to bundle up and skate to your office each morning. However, I did get to enjoy the warm fall weather and to see the beautiful display of fall foliage in the Gatineau Hills. And now I am back in Toronto. The ten-week program flew by in a flash and although I was sad to leave, I recognize that the fate of Canada’s copyright policy is in exceptionally capable hands. The amendments to the Copyright Act in 2012 included a mandate to review the Act every five years. I will certainly be looking eagerly to 2017, the first of the five-year reviews, to watch with interest the issues, recommendations and changes (if any) that come to the Act. I was so fortunate to have had this experience and am grateful for all the knowledge that was shared and for the wonderful opportunity to have played an infinitely small role in the development of copyright policy in Canada.
Stephanie Kolla is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.