Canada’s New Commitment to Boost the High-Tech Sector through Copyright Reform

Late last month, Industry Minister Tony Clement hosted a conference entitled “Canada’s Digital Economy: Moving Forward.” He invited 150 leading technology industry experts to offer feedback to the government with respect to strategy and the type of action that should be taken to further Canada’s pursuit to place a more aggressive emphasis on the prioritization of digital issues.

In articulating his intent to heighten Canada’s high-tech industry, Clement mentioned that he would place a high priority on copyright and privacy act reform in the fall. Heritage Minister James Moore echoed the sentiments of his colleague when he likened the act of impeding digital advancements to “trying to lasso a locomotive with cobwebs.” He stressed the abundance of opportunities that are available to assist in shaping Canada’s copyright laws, whereby playing a pivotal role in developing its digital future. However, he also explains that we must take an aggressive stance for real change to ensue in this highly contentious area. We cannot sit idly by and allow the “old way of doing things” to dictate how we will act in the future.

The conference ended on an optimistic note, where both ministers indicated and affirmed their commitment to a new and refreshing way of thinking about copyright law. They also stressed the positive effect that a progressive copyright regime has on promoting creativity and innovation in the digital world.

The coverage of this conference by the Toronto Star and the National Post is certainly uplifting and forward-thinking in nature, however I can’t help but feel a slight sense of dissatisfaction after reading both. Perhaps I am overly critical or just downright impatient, but at the conclusion of each, I felt as if there was something to be desired, or something left out. What I am getting at is that both ministers continued to reiterate that copyright law reform now occupies a very high spot on their “to-do” list but there was no mention of how exactly they plan to achieve the end discussed in each article. They addressed the issue of conflict between the rights of content producers and those of users but gave no inkling as to how they plan to strike an effective balance between the legitimate concerns of either or both.

However, with the plethora of digital media available and the relatively miniscule amount of time that is devoted to discussing copyright law in the legislature (Canada last consulted on copyright in 2001), the fact that these ministers are willing to openly consult on this topic seems like a crucial and progressive step. After reading each of these articles, I am very curious as to how this whole thing will pan out in the end. Holding this conference was certainly an important first step in promoting change in this important area. I also think that extending the invitation to various industry leaders was very important because it shows that the government is serious about change and that it really is willing to listen.