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Canadian Government Sought U.S. Copyright Blacklisting

| 8 Sep 2011 21:45
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It turns out that Canada is on the U.S. "priority watch list" of countries with runaway piracy problems because the Canadian government asked to be put there.

Remember back in April 2009, when the U.S. added Canada to its Special 301 "priority watch list" of countries that fail to adequately enforce intellectual property laws? America's neighbor to the north joined nations like Russia, China, India and Thailand on the list, giving the whole thing a whiff of the ridiculous, although Entertainment Software Association CEO Michael Gallagher was happy enough to see its addition to the copyright rogue's gallery. "Canada's weak laws and enforcement practices foster game piracy in the Canadian market and pave the way for unlawful imports into the U.S.," is how he put it at the time.

Most of us in the Great White North who pay attention to this sort of thing assumed it was just a dick move on the part of the U.S. [we assume that about a lot of things, to be honest] but while it was unquestionably a dick move, it turns out that it was actually made somewhat closer to home - by none other than our very own Canadian government.

As discovered by noted copyright crusader Professor Michael Geist, U.S. Embassy cables that were released into the wild by Wikileaks revealed that the Canadian government undertook some pretty shady dealings with regard to its efforts to "update" Canada's copyright laws. In 2006, Maxime Bernier, then the Minister of Industry, suggested to the U.S. Ambassador that updates to Canadian copyright laws could be shown to U.S. government officials before being introduced in Parliament, and in 2007 Privy Council official Ailish Johnson told U.S. officials about a letter from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the Ministers of Industry and Heritage, pushing them to introduce a copyright reform bill before the end of the year.

But the real sleaze came a couple of years later, when Zoe Addington, the director of policy for then-Industry Minister Tony Clement, told U.S. officials about plans to use a public consultation process [the results of which it later chose to ignore entirely] to "educate consumers and 'sell' the Government view." And that's not the worst of it.

"[Addington] said that if Canada is elevated to the Special 301 Priority Watch List (PWL), it would not hamper - and might even help - the GOC's ability to enact copyright legislation," according to the Wikileaked cable.

Sure enough, Canada quickly landed on the Special 301 Priority Watch List, where it remains to this day, sharing space with Algeria, Chile, Pakistan, Venezuela and other notorious copyright violation stations.

For its part, the U.S. government seems somewhat contemptuous of Conservative Party efforts to portray its copyright reforms as "made in Canada." In a separate cable sent in 2007, an Embassy official wrote, "[Heritage Minister Bev] Oda said somewhat disingenuously that the policy change had been in the works 'for months' and claimed that U.S. pressure -- in the form of studio threats to delay releases of major films in Canada, Canada's designation on the Special 301 list, repeated Embassy approaches, and the May 30 visit of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who personally raised the camcording issue with Prime Minister Harper -- had nothing to do with the Government's decision to move forward with the bill at this time."

The Government of Canada has made numerous efforts in recent years to bring about DMCA-like updates to the country's copyright laws but has thus far been unsuccessful, thanks primarily to the minority governments held by the Conservative Party of Canada since 2006. But with a majority government handed to it in 2011, copyright reforms are expected to be reintroduced soon and will likely become law.

via: Maclean's, michaelgeist.ca

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