Canada on U.S. watch list

DAVID CANTON - For the London Free Press - May 4, 2005 Read this on Canoe

The United States recently released the Special 301 Report on the state of global intellectual property protections. This report places countries deemed to have insufficient protections on a "watch list." The list includes Canada.

The Internet and digitization have made it easier than ever to copy and share things like music and video. Concerns of the music, move, and television industry about this ability have led to requests for more stringent copyright laws.

This has the potential to affect all of us. Digital copyright reform would affect our ability to download and share music, but could also affect our use of the Internet.

This report deems Canada's intellectual property laws insufficient, along with those of 50 other countries, such as the European Union and dozens of nations in South America, Eastern Europe and Asia.

In 1996, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) concluded two treaties, commonly referred to as the "Internet treaties" which addressed concerns about the implication of networked technologies on copyright and related rights. The Internet treaties proposed significant changes to copyright laws around the world. Canada became a signatory in December 1997 and it has been argued that our Copyright Act, unlike those of some other jurisdictions, is for the most part already largely compliant with the Internet treaties.

The United States believes Canada's laws are not in accordance with international standards. It urges Canada to adopt legislation consistent with its interpretation of the WIPO treaties and to reform our copyright law to better protect copyrighted works in the digital environment.

Even though the U.S. believes Canada's laws are not in accordance with international standards, many feel Canada is following the WIPO treaty -- just not the U.S. interpretation of it. The U.S. is attempting to implement its own version of the treaties, which extend beyond international requirements.

The U.S. is concerned with the Canadian plan to reject the controversial U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Many critics argue the DMCA has interfered with free speech, threatened individual privacy and stifled business competition, and that the implementation of similar measures in Canada would be shortsighted and damaging to creators, publishers, distributors and users.

The U.S. also wants Canada to adopt the "notice-and-takedown" provisions they believe provide protection to copyrighted works by requiring ISP's to remove infringing content on notice. Canada is proposing a different flavour of that because many critics believe the U.S. model has not worked effectively.

Canada tends to balance the rights of the creators, publishers and users. Canada has had the opportunity to see the U.S. approach in action and has crafted a more balanced approach that recognizes all stakeholders and upholds policy objectives of protecting Canadian copyright law.

Consistency in international laws over borderless issues such as copyright is a positive thing. It is simple to say we should work toward establishing an international harmonization of copyright laws, but consistent laws are difficult to attain when each country thinks its own version should be the international standard applicable to all.