As an intern at the Department of Canadian Heritage as part of Osgoode’s IP Law & Technology Intensive Program (IP Intensive), I had the unique opportunity to help the Federal Government craft policies that support artists and other creators in Canada. Canadian Heritage has a wide mandate in the cultural sector and the office I worked in, Creative Marketplace and Innovation Policy, dealt specifically with copyright-related issues, an area of law I am interested in. My time spent in this office was dominated by two large issues: the renegotiation of NAFTA into the USMCA and the ongoing legislative review of the Copyright Act. My role involved researching issues in Canadian copyright law and preparing fact sheets and briefing memorandums for the Minister for Canadian Heritage.
The NAFTA renegotiation meant that many of my co-workers were working day and night on the copyright-related details in the new USMCA proposals. Copyright has always been a sticking place in Canada – US trade relations, as our copyright law generally recognizes copyright in more works than the US does, and the US strongly pushed for Canada to align our IP policies with theirs. While other issues I was asked to research came to me weeks ahead of when they needed to be delivered, USMCA-related issues were often last-minute requests to search government memorandums for mentions of various copyright issues. This frenetic pace of work was driven by the tense USMCA negotiations that were driven by very tight deadlines, requiring very quick turnover on research briefings.
The ongoing review of the Copyright Act was a more stable and ongoing file which was driven by the discussions at the two parliamentary committees tasked with reviewing the Act: The Committee on Industry, Science and Technology and The Committee on Canadian Heritage. Policy analysts at Heritage regularly attend the meetings of both committees to hear what stakeholder groups have to say to the committee and how the politicians on the committee respond to these submissions. This fall, a wide group of organizations and individuals appeared to voice their concerns for copyright reform, including Bryan Adams, who asked for termination rights for music licences. These discussions are crucial for analysts at Heritage to get a sense of what issues need to be researched.
A key function of the Creative Marketplace team is to give the Heritage Minister a clear and objective picture of the arts industry in Canada, and the other issues raised by stakeholders and concerned citizens. This can be very difficult because data on the arts industry often comes from advocacy groups who are biased towards their own interests. As a result, the testimony on copyright reform at these committees is often contradictory, with groups representing creators presenting data that sometimes directly contradicts the data of groups representing publishers and consumers. My job at Heritage was often to search for neutral data on issues and present it in a brief that would give law and policy makers a clear and neutral vision of the stakeholder landscape.
I also had the opportunity to sit in on meetings with various teams within the Heritage Department. I had the opportunity to present research work I was undertaking to large groups of 20 – 30 people, sometimes civil servants from other departments whose research overlapped with ours. This helped add to the dynamic experience of working in government, analysts gave me feedback and advice on other areas to research, helping to develop the quality of my work and greatly propel my understanding of how policy research works.
While my experience was exciting and dynamic, the relocation expense involved in moving to Ottawa gave me some hesitance. I had to find a place to live near my work while holding onto my home in Toronto, and it meant time apart from my family. That being said, anyone interested in intellectual property law should gain exposure to how the Federal government develops IP policy and a placement in Ottawa is a perfect way to get a foot into the door of government. Having completed my placement I feel that I have cemented a number of key relationships with people who I am sure will be colleagues to me for the rest of my career. The benefits from an IP Intensive placement in Ottawa greatly outweigh the costs of relocation, and I would recommend it to any student interested in IP law.
Written by Roger Angus. Roger 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.