“Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.” Or so Otto Von Bismarck is (incorrectly) said to have said. That may well be true for the general public, but for law students, understanding how laws are made can add a lot to what we know about how they are applied. For a self-proclaimed copyright nerd like me, there is no better place to see that process than in the Copyright and International Trade Policy Branch of Canadian Heritage.
As a student researcher, my focus was on my individual research project. The basic subject area was assigned within my first day at Heritage. It expanded to include a comparative law analysis, so among my other research tasks, I read 34 different copyright laws and 20 international treaties. I even got to dig through old archived files at the Library and Archives Canada. In my last week, I presented my results to colleagues at Copyright Policy along with guests from other Branches.
Alongside my research project, I had the chance to participate in some of the regular activities of the Branch. I helped answer calls from the public about copyright policy and conducted media monitoring to ensure we were on top of breaking news about copyright both in Canada and internationally. I participated in department planning and brainstorming activities. I went to IP-related seminars at the University of Ottawa. I attended education sessions presented by members of our Department and outside stakeholders. I spent a couple of days at the Senate for the Committee hearings on the Copyright Board. I even went to the Diefenbunker. (That was not a work assignment, but anyone who visits Ottawa needs to see the Diefenbunker!)
Working with Canadian Heritage also presented an interesting opportunity to learn about how government actually goes about its business. Corporate memory is preserved carefully, with a constant eye toward good Information Management practices. There is a vast assortment of tools and templates used to create consistency in how we communicate within the Branch, with our colleagues within the Department of Canadian Heritage and at other departments, and outside of government. The weight of a pronouncement from a government department on a given issue means the stakes are high in every external communication and a lot of work goes into ensuring that the things we say publicly are correct. There is also an emphasis on making information accessible to a broad audience, whether that means publishing research studies on the internet or ensuring that our briefing documents are truly comprehensible to non-lawyers.
Since we are between the 2012 Copyright Modernization Act and the 2017 mandatory 5-year Parliamentary Review of the Copyright Act, you might imagine that Copyright Policy would be enjoying an intermission. That they would be keeping the lights on while waiting for the next round of legislative changes. The reality is much different.
Instead there is constant activity on a myriad of different files and a considerable drive to support Canada’s creators and cultural industries without limiting the options considered to legislative changes. There are consultations with stakeholders like collective societies and trade associations on a variety of issues — not to mention supporting the larger Cultural Policy review being conducted by the Minister. The Branch supports formal international cooperation efforts at WIPO and the UN and less formal interactions with other counties’ copyright policy shops. The Senate is reviewing the functioning of the Copyright Board, which requires Branch attention. The branch monitors international and domestic jurisprudence on copyright issues, as well as international legislative changes. There’s a steady stream of policy research projects that seek to understand and explain the policy options in areas ranging from the protection of Traditional Cultural Expression to the implications of international trade deals. Though I didn’t directly work on these files, being within the department and part of the ongoing conversation meant that I was exposed to everyone else’s work.
The Copyright Policy team extends a huge effort to keep on top of the world of copyright, and it is a much broader world than I ever imagined. I started my placement thinking that I knew quite a bit about copyright. I ended it knowing a lot more about copyright and also knowing that there is a lot, lot more that I don’t know. Yet.
Jacquilynne Schlesier 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.