Appointment of Canada's New Minister of Justice Raises Concerns About Copyright Reform

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday (Jan. 14) appointed as Minister of Justice and Attorney General an MP and former law professor who once wrote in a paper that file sharing “is not necessarily theft, piracy or even wrong.” The appointee, David Lametti, is a founding member of McGill University’s Centre for Intellectual Property Policy (CIPP), where he served as director from 2009 to 2012.

Although Music Canada and SOCAN provided only careful statements about Lametti’s appointment, some creators and music executives are concerned about the potential effect on the current Canadian copyright reform process, now in its final stages.

Based on the views in Lametti’s 2011 paper, The Virtuous P(eer): Reflections On The Ethics Of File Sharing, they have good reasons to worry. Lametti wrote that his “strong ethical intuition is that one should never put up a digital barrier or fence around music, whatever the law might allow.” He also argues that “current normative structures ought to be adapted to reflect this more profound understanding of the impulse to share music.”

As Justice Minister, however, Lametti will have many more urgent issues on his plate, including the Huawei executive who a month ago was arrested in Canada at the request of the U.S., and the Canadian citizen sentenced to death in China for drug smuggling. Ironically, although Lametti now has a higher position in Trudeau’s government, he may actually have less influence over copyright; he was previously Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, a position in which he was more directly involved with copyright issues.

In October of 2015, Lametti entered politics, elected MP for the LaSalle-Émard-Verdun federal electoral district. That December he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade; then, in January of 2017, he served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development; until this new role as Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

“Congratulations to David Lametti on his appointment as Canada's Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and our thanks and congratulations to Jody Wilson-Raybould for her past work and on her new portfolio,” SOCAN CEO Eric Baptiste said in a statement provided to Billboard. “Last year we saw excellent progress in copyright by the Canadian government. We expect the government to implement some of the commitments made last year, among them the legislative changes that comply with the new free trade agreement between Mexico and the United States, extending copyright protection from Life plus 50 years to Life plus 70 years, as well as the implementation of the announced changes concerning the reform of the Copyright Board.

“The government can count on SOCAN’s collaboration, including on the current review of the Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunication Act. A healthy creative ecosystem is essential to Canada’s national pride, heritage and economy. Creators and rights-holders must be fairly compensated so that they can continue to contribute strongly to the businesses and citizens who benefit so much from their work, and SOCAN will continue to be a powerful advocate for our members.”

“Music Canada congratulates Minister Lametti on his appointment as Minister of Justice and Attorney General,” said Quentin Burgess, director of communications at Music Canada, in a statement to Billboard. “We look forward to continuing our work with Ministers Rodriguez and Bains and the new Parliamentary Secretary to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada as the review of the Copyright Act continues. We also look forward to working with the newly reformed Copyright Board of Canada. As of April 1st, the legislative reforms passed last December will come into force. These changes will create a more efficient regulatory environment which will support a royalty rate-setting process that better reflects the true value of music. Music Canada looks forward to working with the government to support the implementation of these changes.”