Revisions to Canada’s Copyright Act, which were expected to be announced today, have been put on hold without any indication of when they might be introduced.
The Canadian Conservative government under Industry Minister Jim Prentice had placed amendments to the Copyright Act on the government’s agenda. It was withdrawn apparently in response to growing criticism from consumer’s right groups and other vocal opponents concerned the law would resemble the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
A government spokeswoman would not confirm when amendments might be introduced.
“Minister Prentice will introduce legislation when he is satisfied the bill strikes the right balance between creators’ rights and consumers’ rights,” an Industry Canada spokeswoman said in an e-mail. “Stay tuned.”
The music industry has cited lax copyright legislation as allowing free peer-to-peer file sharing that has led to the decline of compact disc sales, which fell to $719 million ($708M) last year, a 45% decrease from 1999 when music sales totaled $1.3 billion ($1.28B) in Canada.
Special interest groups opposed to a revised copyright law based on the U.S. DMCA, including University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist, launched an online campaign against the amended legislation. More than 16,000 people joined a Facebook group opposed that stated the legislation “will be a complete sell-out to U.S. government and lobbyist demands.”
On his blog, Geist wrote it is still possible the law could reappear.
“While there is now considerable celebration about the [Canadian] DCMA’s delay, in my view such celebration is premature,” he wrote. “The decision to delay the bill is the right one, but it could still reappear within the next few days.”
Graham Henderson, the president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, said he was surprised by the amount of rhetoric surrounding a law that had not even been made publicly available.
“I find it incomprehensible that people can get worked up over a bill that they have never even seen,” he said, adding debate typically comes after legislation is introduced. “I’m amazed at the ability of those opposed to this to divine the contents of a bill that was supposed to be kept within cabinet.”
Geist wrote that a new bill could be introduced once the concerns of various interest groups were addressed.
“A winter consultation could lead to a new bill by late spring, still offering the chance to reform Canadian copyright law in 2008,” he wrote.
But a Canadian legal source close to the bill said it is more likely the issue will be placed before a government committee that will review the matter and receive input from all sides, including the entertainment industry. That could delay the bill until well into 2008 or even later. There has already been substantial consultation on past proposed revisions to the Copyright Act, Henderson points out, including Bill C-60, which died when an election was called for January 2006.