Biz ponders if Conservatives will overhaul law.

While Canadian voters put an end to 12 years of Liberal government rule in that country Jan. 23, it's music industry has been left pondering if the newly-elected minority Conservative party will go ahead with an overhaul of the country's copyright law started under the Liberals.

With a minority government, the Conservatives must perform a balancing act to remain power. It much reach out to the other parties in the House Parliament for any legislation it introduces to proceed, and to ensure that it considers the views of the coalition that has elected them.

Still, Canadian music industry sources are upbeat that Conservative’s culture critic Bev Oda—a former broadcasting executive, and communication consultant--will likely be tapped to be the new Minister of Heritage, replacing Liberal Liza Frulla who was defeated in her Quebec riding.

Following an all-parties' Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage report on Copyright Reform in which Oda served, former Canadian Heritage Minister Liza Frulla and Former Industry Minister David Emerson introduced revisions to Canada's Copyright Act in the House of Commons on June 20. However, following this first reading, the Liberals failed to table the proposed bill to committee hearings where it would have likely have undergone changes before further readings in Parliament. With an election, the proposed bill died.

While the Conservative government campaign platform has promised only that the party will "maintain the roles" of Canada's major cultural institutions, music industry sources are confident that Oda will move quickly on copyright reform.

Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) says, "I feel very confident that copyright reform fits with the Conservative’s agenda. They will like take a step back and put their own stamp on (a new bill). It could get fixed up, tabled in the House, and then passed.

The Liberal’s proposed draft bill had advanced Canada's long-standing commitment to ratify two World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties. While the treaties were signed in 1997, they have yet to be ratified by Canada.

The two treaties, the Performances and Phonogram Treaty and the Copyright Treaty, deal with copyright protection in the digital age.

Says MD Oda, "It’s unfortunate that there’s been a long delay in dealing with copyright in this country. There are aspects (of copyright reform) we want to look at and make sure we find the proper balance between the user and the creator (interests). We are going to make sure we work on behalf of the creators to make sure that we have all of the protections that we can. But to make sure there is a balance for the users."

"It’s going to be a challenge and interesting session of government," continues Oda. "But I’m hoping that all of the parties will look at each issue and work together on things that should be done in the interest of the Canadian industry, Canadian creators, and the Canadian public."

According to the music industry's view point, the Liberal’s draft bill pointedly failed to provide digital businesses with adequate protection from downloaders--although there were new limitations on what could be done with copies made under Canadian's private copying system--and Internet service providers (ISPs) have limited responsibility if piracy occurs on their networks.

Under the draft legislation ISPs, in fact, obtained clear provisions that they would not be liable for caching or the hosting of third party content. As well, there was the introduction of a notice system which would obligate ISPs to send a notice if there is a claim of copyright infringement. ISPs would have to retain records that would allow the identity of the person to whom the electronic location belongs to be determined. If ISPs fail to abide by these provisions they may face statutory damages of $5,000 or $10,000 ($4,350 or $8,710 U.S.)

"We’re very hopeful that those provisions will be maintained in any new bill introduced by the Conservatives," says Jay Thomson, Chairman of the Copyright Committee of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers.