The specter of copyright reform is once again haunting the Canadian mediascape.
How much of a criminal do you feel like when you download music, movies and tv shows? A little or a lot? Maybe not at all?
Maybe you aren’t into filesharing, but what do you think should happen to your neighbours, your cousins and your friends who are? Should it be illegal to make copies of your music collection, even for backup? How about hefty taxes on all recording and storage technologies?
In the end (and beginning) it comes down to to the question of who owns public culture. Who should be allowed access to it, for what purposes, and how much should they pay? These are the questions being asked in the copyright reform process-slash-controversy once again casting its difficult shadow over the land.
Beginning this week, a series of public roundtables will be held across Canada by the Conservative government to ask Canadians what they think about copyright laws and reform. These hearings fulfill a long overdue promise by the Conservatives to consult Canadians about intellectual property rights, a promise made in the aftermath of the Conservative government’s failure to have Bill C-61 – their unusually regressive and industry-biased copyright reform legislation defeated last year – made into law.
The importance of these hearings can’t be overstated. Bill C-61 would have outlawed remixing, turntablism, mash-ups, audio/visual collage and copying DVDs and CDs to your iPod. Fines were set to escalate up to $10,000 per infringement (i.e. per file) along with provisions for jail time. It was an industry-sponsored assault on the cultural commons that was defeated by alarmed and outraged Canadians (see Michael Geist’s archives for more info about Bill C-61).
Canadians have to get out and tell the Conservative government what they think. The first hearings are scheduled to begin in Vancouver later today (12:45pm at the Vancouver Public Library). Hearings will be held across Canada for the remainder of the Summer.
Alas, the Conservatives are being tight lipped about where exactly and when future hearings will be held. In fact, notices for today’s hearings only went out last week giving Canadians virtually no time to prepare. Why, one might cleverly ask, conduct public hearings and not tell the public? (I’m not even asking why have them in July and August when most Canadians are busy vacationing). Those rascally Conservatives – keeping Canadians on their toes …
So, what to do? How about email Heritage Minister James Moore (MooreJ@parl.gc.ca) and Industry Minister Tony Clement (Clement.T@parl.gc.ca) and ask them for a schedule of public hearings – in fact, demand one. Maybe cc NDP MP Charlie Angus, their Culture and Heritage critic (AngusC@parl.gc.ca), and – what the hell – why not cc Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff ( IgnatM@parl.gc.ca). Let the opposition know that your interested in the public hearings and that they should be conducted openly with fair notice so that Canadians have a chance to weigh in on the subject of intellectual property law.
After all, governments only get away this stuff if we don’t pay attention.
For more info, check out this recent CBC article.