IP Intensive Progam: Taking Culture, Copyright, and Creators Seriously - A Semester at the Ministry of Canadian Heritage

Legislative reform does not happen overnight, especially when it comes to a polarized domain of law like copyright.  Legal policy analysts are integral to this process of reform, and this past semester, as a student in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property & Technology Law Intensive Program, I was fortunate enough to spend 10 weeks with one of the two main policy shops that made Canada’s recent reform of the copyright regime possible.

The Department of Canadian Heritage is a multifaceted ministry of the Federal Government focused on promoting “culture, the arts, heritage, official languages, citizenship and participation as well as Aboriginal, youth and sport initiatives.”  My internship was spent with the department’s Copyright and International Trade Policy Development Branch whose mandate is to ensure “that Canada’s copyright policy framework, a cornerstone of cultural policy, supports creativity, innovation and access to cultural works.”  The Branch carries out this mandate through a series of initiatives, which include providing the public with information about Canada’s copyright system, staying on top of the latest developments within copyright both domestically and internationally, and helping promote Canada’s interests abroad with respect to international copyright negotiations. 

In the year leading up to the coming into force of the Copyright Modernization Act (CMA), the Branch’s policy analysts were hard at work in order to ensure the reform process went as smoothly as possible.  Now that the CMA has taken effect, the branch has turned its focus towards Canada’s commitment to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.  Despite this change in focus, the branch continues to stay on top of copyright issues and developments as the reformed copyright regime takes on its newly defined parameters. 

While at the Branch, I was able to take part in many different kinds of projects and initiatives including participating in weekly branch meetings, writing issue briefs on topics related to contemporary copyright discourse, drafting memos for the Branch’s deputy minister, and attending presentations by Branch members on different aspects of copyright reform. 

Other highlights from the internship include attending a conference hosted by the University of Ottawa on Professor Michael Geist’s recently edited collection of essays titled, The Copyright Pentalogy: How the Supreme Court of Canada Shook the Foundations of Canadian Copyright Law, and following proceedings at the Copyright Board on the Commercial Radio Tariff (SOCAN: 2011-2013; Re: Sound: 2012-2014; CSI: 2012-2013; ArtistI: 2012-2014; AVLA/SOPROQ: 2012-2017) on behalf of the branch.  This latter task provided me with a firsthand look into the workings of Canada’s Copyright Board, and advocacy within the context of intellectual property law disputes more generally.      

The time I spent with the Branch will undoubtedly serve me well going forward in my legal career.  Not only did it fuel my passion for the study of copyright, and intellectual property law, but it also gave me the opportunity to exercise and refine my legal research skills in a practical setting while engaging in meaningful policy work.  The Branch is an amazing place made up of great people who are truly passionate about their work, and through them I have acquired a newfound appreciation for taking a public policy-oriented approach to legal issues of all sorts.   

I cannot overstate the value of Osgoode’s Intellectual Property & Technology Law Intensive Program.  It is a must for anyone who is genuinely interested in intellectual property law and would like to experience their nuances up close and personal.  Furthermore, it is an excellent practical supplement to theoretical classroom learning that provides students with a great deal of perspective on the discipline.    

Oscar Palma 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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