Policy perspective on copyright law: my 3L semester at Canadian Heritage

Christian Bekking is an IP Intensive student and a 3L JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. As part of the course requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.

During the first semester of my 3L year, I was placed at the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH), Copyright Policy Branch for ten weeks through the IP Law & Technology Intensive Program. After spending the past two summers working for an IP boutique firm involved primarily in patent and trademark matters, I relished the opportunity to learn about copyright law outside of the classroom. This article shares my experience during my time at PCH.

While I have not attended a copyright law class at this point in my academic career, I had the pleasure to learn about the nuts-and-bolts of the copyright policy machine from those best equipped to teach me, policy analysts. Understanding the difficult path to balancing the public interest of enjoyment of works with creator rights to be compensated for their works is very interesting and will be useful in a legal career in IP. Many stakeholders have varying needs that are often difficult to reconcile with others but balancing those needs is a critical part of copyright law. PCH is tasked with balancing stakeholder views and interests as well as ensuring Canada’s copyright policy framework supports creativity, innovation, and access to cultural works. One of the ways PCH fulfills its mandate, is through public consultation.

Analyzing the views of stakeholders is an essential aspect of a policy analysts’ role

I was fortunate to be able to assist in the analysis of stakeholder submissions regarding the recent consultation: Modern Copyright Framework for Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. This consultation was seeking stakeholder input regarding five discrete aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) in relation to the Copyright Act: text and data mining exceptions, AI authorship, AI liability, right to repair and interoperability. Stakeholders were provided an opportunity to submit their opinions, concerns, and general comments regarding these questions. In my role, I was tasked with digesting submissions and providing a summary to be analyzed in relation to other submissions. This provided a “birds eye view” of stakeholder opinions to help guide policy discussions. This exercise provided the opportunity to understand how the public views copyright law and how changes to copyright law could impact their interests. This was an invaluable experience as it reminded me of the reality that legal decisions can impact the public in an incredibly meaningful way, something that can often be lost on a law student barreling their way through case law and legal doctrines. In this case, the complex and evolving nature of AI and IoT presents many challenges when contemplating copyright policy changes and highlighted that policy analysts are extremely important for ensuring decision makers have all available knowledge and opinions to properly guide policy decisions.

Understanding the ramifications of copyright decisions goes beyond the decision

The highly publicized York University v Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright) decision will potentially impact stakeholders in a significant manner. I was also tasked with investigating how this decision could potentially impact creators with limited resources to pursue infringement actions. This was an interesting task; it was a practical opportunity to think beyond the decision to envision its impacts on the public. I was able to consider alternatives to traditional litigation and discuss other avenues to improve access to justice for creators. The research I conducted provided perspective and allowed me to contribute in a significant way to the knowledge of PCH which will hopefully provide a base for further research regarding this important subject.

The opportunity to gain practical experience working with policy experts at PCH has been a rewarding alternative to classroom learning. Learning about the public consultation process has not only been an interesting experience but has allowed me to gain valuable analytical skills and a deeper appreciation for the nuances of copyright law and the significant impact it has on the public. The grind of law school can sometimes overwhelm, and students can often lose sight of other perspectives. My placement at PCH was a reminder that ultimately the public will be forced to deal with the aftermath of policy decisions and these decisions, thankfully, are being considered in a thoughtful and thorough manner by the fantastic team at PCH.

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