Canadian Makin'

Canadian Makin'
Pirates of the Frozen Wastes

Andy Chalk | 30 Jun 2009 12:41
Canadian Makin' - RSS 2.0

The U.S. government, cheered on by the Entertainment Software Association, has been making noise about Canada's lax approach toward videogame piracy for years, but actually adding their northern neighbor to the 2009 priority watch list is nonetheless a bit troubling. Not that anyone's taking it too seriously; the idea that Canada is somehow on par with China when it comes to blatant disregard of copyright law is laughable. But it does send the message that the U.S. administration is becoming increasingly agitated over the Canadian government's reluctance to play ball.

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The United States implemented the tough, forward-looking Digital Millennium Copyright Act all the way back in 1998, but in Canada a lack of political will and wherewithal has precluded lawmakers from enacting similar measures. Since 2004, the country has been run by feeble minority governments unwilling to take risky political gambles for fear of being turfed out by the opposition at the first whiff of failure. Copyright law reform may not sound like much of a minefield, but persuading Canadian citizens to give up the rights that they've enjoyed for years is a risky proposition.

The ruling Conservative government has twice introduced new legislation to update Canadian copyright laws for the digital era, but in both cases these efforts came to a premature halt when the sitting government was dissolved and new elections were held. Even in the most recent election - which the Conservative party won with yet another minority - one of the party's campaign promises was to launch yet another copyright reform initiative: The government recently announced that it would begin a "consultation process" later this month with an eye toward tabling a third bill by the end of the year. Despite the pressure from south of the border, however, there's no assurance that the latest attempt to pass new copyright legislation will be any more successful than the previous two.

Support and opposition for the measure is divided along familiar lines. The MPAA, RIAA and Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) are all in favor of the bill, while surprisingly fierce opposition has formed out of an eclectic mix of consumers groups, software developers, university professors, the Canadian Library Association and tens of thousands of individual citizens who fear the imposition of DMCA-style copyright laws will hamper innovation, fair use and turn countless numbers of otherwise law-abiding people into criminals.

In fact, the DMCA has become the crux of much of the opposition to similar efforts in Canada. By and large, the experiences precipitated by the DMCA have not been entirely positive, a fact that Canadian copyright activists have been quick to latch onto. In the short documentary Why Copyright? by University of Ottawa professor and copyright activist Michael Geist, Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Carys Craig says, "I think what we can safely say is that the U.S. model is not an ideal one, and that Canada should not really be looking to the U.S. as an example of what to do but perhaps as an example of what not to do."

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