Canada returns to copyright reform

Government moving forward with public consultation

TORONTO -- The Canadian government has returned to the thorny issue of copyright reform legislation, but this time with public consultation.

Federal heritage minister James Moore and colleague Tony Clement, the federal industry minister, on Monday in Vancouver were to hold the first of a series of public meetings countrywide on changing Canada's copyright regime for the digital age.

The ruling Conservatives' last attempt at copyright reform legislation, Bill C-61, died last fall when a national election was called after it encountered stiff public opposition.

This time around, the federal government will attempt to avoid being seen to bow to pressure from Hollywood to introduce strong copyright laws, at the expense of digital freedoms for ordinary Canadians.

"We are consulting to ensure that all perspectives are taken into account in an open and transparent process, to help deliver new legislation in the fall that is forward-looking, reflects Canadian values, and strengthens Canada's ability to compete in the global digital economy," the federal government said in a statement to accompany news of the public consultations this summer.

Bill C-61 proposed stiff fines for down-loaders of copyrighted materials and anyone hacking into digital locks -- measures that were seen to favor U.S. record labels and film studios over Canadian consumers.

Concerns were also expressed that protecting creator rights infringed on the privacy rights of Canadians.

Only last week, Canada's privacy watchdog accused Facebook, the U.S. social media site, of breaching federal rules with lax protections for the private information of 12 million Canadian users.

Clement and Moore are expected to explore the issue of liability by Internet service providers for infringing material, whether current measures by ISPs to deal with serial infringers are sufficient, and whether a "notice and take-down system" can work in Canada.

Other measures proposed for new copyright reform legislation here include barring wireless phone providers from charging for unsolicited text messages, and introducing anti-spam legislation.

Ottawa is expected to introduce new copyright reform legislation in the fall.