IP Intensive Program: A Semester at Canadian Heritage - An Insider's Look into the Copyright Policy Shop

Until mid-September of 2014, my perspective on legal policy was essentially limited to my experiences writing the policy section embedded in my law school and graduate school essays. This past fall I was fortunate enough to be enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program and spend a semester at the Department of Canadian Heritage – Copyright and International Trade Branch, where I witnessed what legal policy-making looks like through a practical standpoint.

Through my internship I  gained a more comprehensive understanding of what copyright policy actually means, and how it is used as an instrumental tool essential for the promotion and encouragement of Canada’s creative industries. Having the opportunity to intern at the Federal Government was an invaluable experience, as it allowed me to glance into the typical workday of a civil servant and gain a meaningful understanding of how policy is processed from the inception of an idea into action and reform.

What I appreciated most about my experience was seeing how the culture of the Copyright Branch cultivated hard-work and intellectual development. Balancing the interests (and demands) of industry stakeholders, users and rights-holders while simultaneously dealing with the practical implications of the Copyright Modernization Act of 2012 is no easy feat. Beyond their expertise and impressive knowledge about copyright law, the people at Heritage were also well-versed on the values of peer-support and collaboration.

Our weekly “water-cooler” meetings reflected this unwavering team spirit. Getting the group together at least once a week provided a valuable opportunity to learn about  different projects, ask questions or discuss hot topics in the world of Copyright law, all within a casual setting. I even had the chance to lead one of the meetings as I recapped my research findings and offered my opinion about current international developments.

My work at the government office focused on both Canadian and international law. During my placement I  helped create a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) Sheet to be posted on the Government’s website in the near future. This initiative will hopefully make copyright law more accessible and transparent for the Canadian public. The Copyright Branch is committed to achieving harmony between the Canadian Copyright system and other countries worldwide. As a result, I was able to work on a long-term assignment which involved gathering and synthesizing large amounts of data relating to current international reforms and recent initiatives in copyright. From this, I gained indispensable insight into entirely new systems of intellectual property law while learning much about the cultural industries of different countries.

Above all, my work at Heritage afforded me a perfect opportunity to practice and polish my legal analysis and research skills, an advantage that will surely benefit me in my future career. Importantly, I learned how to sieve through large amounts of information and provide a comprehensive and succinct memo (called fiches) as a final product. I even researched and summarized documents in different languages with the help of translation applications.

I was most impressed with the Copyright Branch’s ability to keep its finger on the pulse of international copyright reforms occurring worldwide. Accordingly, Canadian Heritage’s objective of achieving copyright harmony within an international context was reflected in their positive and extremely diplomatic relationships with delegates across the globe. It is precisely these strong international relationships which lead me to the highlight of my internship. I felt grateful to have the opportunity to attend a full-day seminar delivered by Spanish Delegates regarding the recent changes made to the Spanish copyright system. Since I had conducted research on the Spanish copyright system in an earlier assignment, I was able to follow along with the talk comfortably. At certain points I even had the opportunity to offer my opinions to the table. Overall, it was a very exciting (and at times surreal) day; it was very memorable to be part of this greater dialogue between the Copyright Board, Industry Canada, Canadian Heritage and Spanish delegates.

I am truly thrilled to have been part of such a vibrant and dynamic team at the Department of Canadian Heritage – Copyright and International Trade Branch. I am grateful to my supervisors (both at Heritage and IP Osgoode) for making this internship opportunity possible, and for making my experience in Ottawa one I will never forget.

Mona Zarifian 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.

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