Forget attack ads: Real suggestions for changing copyright law

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

By Laura Tribe

It’s time to fix Canada’s copyright law.

Not in the way that the federal government has recently proposed, allowing the use of news and journalistic content without permission in political campaign ads. CJFE has raised serious concerns that, if implemented, last week’s leaked proposal would pose a serious threat to press freedom in the country.

Instead of small changes to amend copyright law for political gain, what we really need is to update legislation so it takes digital materials into account while considering the importance of creators, the public, and free expression.

From what we know of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, it is clear that copyright regulations are increasingly being used to monitor and police citizens’ online activities – not to protect the rights of creators or the public.

This morning OpenMedia and a number of organizations released a crowdsourced proposal on sharing and collaborating online in the 21st century. The report, “Our Digital Future,” is based on three key pillars:

1. Respect the creators
2. Prioritize free expression
3. Embrace democratic processes

These recommendations come from over 300,000 individuals in 155 countries. Looking beyond just the Canadian context, the report highlights a number of different ways that we can build a more collaborative and functional global system in the digital age.

As OpenMedia Community Engagement Specialist Reilly Yeo stated, “It’s clear from this extensive study that Internet users overwhelmingly want balanced copyright rules that respect creators while safeguarding free expression online.”

“Our Digital Future” presents a thoughtful and detailed approach to what the public wants in copyright legislation, and how important it is for this to respect the right to free expression.

Last week’s leaked copyright proposal highlighted the Canadian government’s unwillingness to open the copyright discussion until it is up for review in 2017. However, their proposal to amend this law for its own purposes without actually assessing what real updates are needed is reckless, and fails to act in the public interest.

Free expression is a fundamental human right, and a critical aspect of democracy, and it must be safeguarded on the internet and in our copyright law.

Read the full report from OpenMedia.


Laura Tribe is CJFE’s National and Digital Programs Lead. Follow her on Twitter @ltribe.