Seeking the Balance – A Law Student’s Experience with Industry Canada: A Semester in Osgoode’s IP Intensive Program

The second year of the Intellectual Property Law & Technology Intensive concluded in December, 2012. This newest addition to the variety of clinical education programs offered by Osgoode Hall Law School provides enthusiastic students a first-hand experience into the real world of IP law, policy, and practice.

I was personally interested in copyright law, and in particular the policy considerations  driving copyright reform, thus I was very lucky to be welcomed by the copyright team of Industry Canada. I am the second IP intensive student to join Industry Canada, the first intern reported on her experience here.

Industry Canada is the federal government department which seeks to foster a knowledge-based economy by enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of Canadian industries for the overall economic and social well-being of Canadians. In pursuit of this goal, Industry Canada is tasked with the development and implementation of IP policy, while copyright is a shared responsibility with the Copyright Policy Branch of the department of Canadian Heritage.

The Strategic Policy Sector provides all economic and policy advice to the department, and includes the specialized Copyright and Trade-Mark Policy Directorate, which took me into their fold. Our copyright responsibilities included working with other governmental departments to bring Bill C-11 into force, engaging stakeholders and providing advice to the Minister on regulatory proposals, monitoring legal and business developments, and research and analysis of various international copyright law and issues.

The main goal I had set for myself prior to joining Industry Canada was to learn how copyright policy develops into law. I had been interested in this process since my first year in law school when I studied Bill C-32 while it was still on the Parliamentary docket. At that time, debate over copyright reform had reached a climax and it seemed an impossible challenge for government to draft effective law in light of the number of stakeholders, and the often diametrically-opposed positions they took.

On that note, one thing I learned was that despite the coming into force of Bill C-11, copyright policy did not cease developing – it is an ongoing process. I attended two proposed tariff hearings of the Copyright Board concerning webcasting and the private copying levy, and drafted opinions on possible stakeholder implications. I monitored the aftershock of the recent Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) pentalogy decisions on Canadian businesses and industry, educational institutions, and collective societies. I also provided research into current copyright developments and trends in foreign jurisdictions. In other words, the coming into force of Bill C-11 did not signal the end of copyright policy development. Rather, it was a (very important) step forward in an evolving and adapting process that involves continuous stakeholder engagement.

The greatest challenge I experienced was learning how to balance these diverse interests. I agree with last year’s intern that learning “how to think like a policy maker” is a major lesson imparted by the experience with Industry Canada.

In law school and private practice, students such as me are taught to advocate on behalf of a client. Policymakers, however, consult a broad range of stakeholders on all sides of an issue, analyze their respective positions, and determine policy that best suits departmental goals. In other words, they might be categorized as advocating for the public interest.

Perhaps, this is especially true of copyright. In Theberge, the SCC stated that the purpose of copyright law is to balance the public interest in the encouragement and dissemination of works, and just rewards for creators.

This idea seems to reflect the task of policymakers at Industry Canada – consulting and engaging with rights-holders and users groups, non-governmental organizations and government bodies, business interests and individual citizens; all with the aspiration of developing policies and laws which balance the often conflicting perspectives and interests that characteristically dominate copyright debate. Shifting my analytical approach from advocacy to the broader public interest was the most important lesson learnt during my time at Industry Canada, because this is ultimately how copyright policy is developed into law.

Ken Anderson is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law Intensive Program.  As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.

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