Canadian groups urge copyright action


TORONTO -- Canadian film and music industry groups on Friday expressed concern over the federal government delaying proposed legislation to crack down on copyright infringement.

Federal industry minister Jim Prentice was expected to unveil amendments to the federal Copyright Act on Monday but postponed the introduction of a new bill until early 2008.

"This government is turning its back on legislation that is long overdue. Politics must not trump policy," Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, representing about 21,000 performers, said.

Waddell urged Prentice to ignore opposition from Internet user advocates and introduce Copyright Act amendments that bring Canada in line with the 1997 World Intellectual Property Organization Internet treaties, to which Canada is a signatory.

"By not releasing the promised legislation, the government is causing further delays, and in the process shelving years of hard work," he added.

The federal government in recent weeks has faced growing criticism from Internet users that charge the proposed copyright reforms from Ottawa tilt too much to demands from U.S. media interests for safeguards against copyright infringements.

The Internet-roots opposition, led by University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, urges Ottawa to introduce "fair use" or "fair dealing" of digital content by ordinary Canadians.

"He (Prentice) has an opportunity to brush aside the momentary embarrassment of the delays and instead work toward a genuine copyright balance by reaching out to all Canadians," Geist wrote Friday on his blog.

Douglas Frith, president of the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Assn., the Hollywood studios' Canadian point man, said he didn't know the contents of Ottawa's proposed copyright reforms but expected they would ease concerns in Washington and Los Angeles about lax copyright rules north of the border.

"Yes. There will be areas that don't go as far as we need. That's for the committee to be persuaded of. But compared to Bill-60, we'll be happy," Frith said, alluding to previous copyright legislation that was supposed to combat peer-to-peer file-sharing and bring Canada into compliance with the WIPO treaties.

While the earlier Bill C-60 failed to pass through the House of Commons, Frith did manage to shepherd the anti-piracy Bill C-59 to enactment into law last June.

The postponement of Ottawa's copyright reform legislation also brought calls Friday from groups representing domestic music performers and rights-holders for Canada to follow other Western countries by updating their copyright rules for the emerging digital world.