Tag Archives: Canadian Copyright Act

Science and a Conservative majority government in Canada

In the wake of last night’s (May 2, 2011) victory for the Conservative party, I decided to take another look at their platform (the part dealing with science) for this election. Here are excerpts from what it had to say about science,


Building on our support for world-class research, a re-elected Steven Haper government will make new investments to:
• establish 10 additional Canada Excellence
Research Chairs;
• support the outstanding work of the Institut national d’optique;
• invest in strengthening the Perimeter Institute’s position as a world-leading research centre for theoretical physics; and
• leverage funding to support Brain Canada’s efforts to develop new diagnostics, treatments and cures for brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2010 we launched an independent expert panel to conduct a comprehensive review of all federal business research and development initiatives and to recommend ways to ensure our investments
deliver results.

We will take action on the findings of the Research and Development Review Panel, when it submits its report later this year.


… Our purpose is to build on our actions
so far in this area – for example:

• our plan to extend broadband coverage to 200,000 additional households in rural and remote regions; and
• our successful efforts to increase competition and choice and to lower costs for wireless consumers.

Later this spring, a re-elected Stephen Harper Government will announce and begin implementing a Digital Economy Strategy, focused five priorities:

• building world-class digital infrastructure;
• encouraging businesses to adopt digital technologies;
• supporting digital skills development;
• fostering the growth of Canadian companies supplying digital technologies to global markets; and
• creating made-in-Canada content across all platforms, to bring Canada to the world.

To achieve these goals, among other specific actions we will:

• support collaborative projects between colleges and small- and medium-sized businesses to accelerate the adoption of information and communications technologies;
• promote enrolment in post-secondary science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs; and
• build Canada’s digital content through additional support for the Canada Media Fund.

A Stephen Harper-led majority Government will also reintroduce and pass the Copyright Modernization Act, [emphasis mine] a key pillar in our commitment to make Canada a leader in the global digital economy.

This balanced, commonsense legislation [emphasis mine] recognizes the practical priorities of teachers, students, artists, families, and technology companies, among others, while aligning Canada with international standards. It respects both the rights of creators and the interests of consumers.

It will ensure that Canada’s copyright law will be responsive in a fast changing digital world, while protecting and creating jobs, promoting innovation, and attracting investment to Canada.

Also, as part of the next wireless spectrum auction, we will set aside spectrum for emergency responders.


Canada’s export-oriented space agency world – the fifth largest in the world – employs more than 80,000 Canadians in well-paid, highly skilled jobs in almost every region of the country. It is also one of
the top investors in industrial research and development – high-tech innovation that attracts talent to Canada and creates more good new jobs for Canadians.

Through a consultative process involving the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada and their member firms we will conduct a comprehensive review of policies and programs to develop a federal
policy framework to maximize the competitiveness of Canada’s aerospace and space industry.

We will also ensure stable funding is provided ensure stable funding is provided for the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative. (pp. 14-16)

There are some good things here. The last time I looked at a Conservative party platform, a few years after the election, and read over the basic research and development section, I noticed that too was mostly bullet points and that they had followed through on all but one of the four bullet points. Given the modest ambitions expressed in this document, 10 more Excellence Research chairs, etc., I imagine they will be able to follow through on everything they’ve promised in that regard.

In including the other sections, Digital Economy and Aerospace Industry, I wanted to redress an oversight on my part as I have largely ignored these sections in favour of commenting on research and development issues in regard to science policy.

I have to admit to being a bit miffed about the references to a Steven Harper government as opposed to a Conservative Party government. It’s something I found disturbing a few month’s back when the PMO’s (Prime Minister’s Office) did declare that references to the government should be written as Steven Harper’s government and not the Conservative government.

Canada’s Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages declares opponents to Copyright bill are “extremists”

This is just too juicy to resist. Could I please get on to a list of  ‘radical extremists’ as per James Moore’s recent comments?

By the way, it was a shock to realize that Moore, Canada’s Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages is from my neck of the woods. He represents Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam in BC, just a few miles away from Vancouver.

Moore’s declaration is one of the latest developments in the public discussion about the current bill on copyright (C-32).  From Mike Masnick’s article on Techdirt,

The recent story about Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore lashing out at his critics over the Canadian version of the DMCA (C-32) and calling them “radical extremists” has been getting an awful lot of attention, including condemnation from other elected officials. However, Moore’s response has been anything but comforting. He apparently denied saying those words in a correspondence with Michael Geist, but it didn’t take long for some video to surface that not only shows him saying that, but many other nasty things about anyone who dares criticize the bill …

You’ll find the video evidence of Moore’s comment after that paragraph. It’s not easy to hear as he seems to be mumbling his speech but he definitely makes the statement. Making this even an even better experience, it looks like someone is trying to cover it up. From Michael Geist‘s blog,

Almost lost amidst the considerable outrage from many people over Moore’s comments, was the possibility that there was an attempt to bury the “radical extremist” comment. The initial video posted by event organizers (the Chamber of Commerce’s IP Council) did not include a clip of the reference to radical extremists. Sun Media ran a story that included the quote but others seemed to act as if it never happened.

By mid-morning yesterday, attendees were not confirming the comment, Moore was denying it, and the event video did not include it. That might have been the end of the story, but IT World Canada reporter Brian Jackson compiled his own video of the event and posted it online. [emphases mine] The Jackson video included the reference and made it clear that Moore was not being forthright in his private claims (the event organizer site later added the same video). The lack of candor is rather rich given that Moore’s comments tried to paint critics of the bill as misleading the public.

I hope Moore will apologize for lying about having called opponents to his copyright bill ‘radical extremists’. I can understand that people sometimes let their frustrations run away from them and they say things they wouldn’t ordinarily. Unlike politicians though, I’m not likely to be recorded by anyone when my mouth runs away from me. By that token, my words don’t have the same impact either and that’s part of Moore’s problem. He doesn’t seem to understand the power that language has. Using an inflammatory phrase such as ‘radical extremists’ to characterize critics and opponents to a copyright bill before the House of Commons debases the term. By simultaneously linking individuals who use violence to achieve their ends (the usual application for the term ‘radical extremists’) to individuals who are debating, discussing, and writing commentaries critical of your political aims you render the term into a joke and you minimize the violence associated with it.

I can even understand if Moore denied saying it because he didn’t remember it that way. Memory can be pretty flexible. It’s the attempt to cover it up (Geist includes copies of Moore’s repeated twitter denials) that sticks in my throat and brands the man a liar.

Note: I have discussed the new bill C-32 in this previous posting.

Canada’s new copyright bill (C-32) and OECD’s take on intellectual property rights and innovation

Canada’s conservative government introduced a new bill (C-32) on copyright last Wednesday, June 2, 2010. The previous attempt, Bill C-61, died and, as I recall, that death occurred after furious protest largely concerning the ‘digital lock’ provision. This provision was modeled on a similar US provision, which has been highly contested in that country. For a brief description of a digital lock I went to Michael Geist’s blog where I found a posting answering 32 questions about Bill C-32,,

… what are anti-circumvention or digital lock provisions? The short answer is that they are provisions that grant legal protection to technological protection measures (TPMs). In plainer English, traditional copyright law grants creators a basket of exclusive rights in their work. TPMs or digital locks (such as copy-controls on CDs, DVDs, or e-books) effectively provide a second layer of protection by making it difficult for most people to copy or sometimes access works in digital format. Anti-circumvention legislation creates a third layer of protection by making it an infringement to simply pick or break the digital lock (in fact, it even goes further by making it an infringement to make available tools or devices that can be used to pick the digital lock). Under the Bill C-32, it would be an infringement to circumvent a TPM [digital lock] even if the intended use of the underlying work would not constitute traditional copyright infringement. [emphases mine]

I gather that even if I copy something that is now legal in Canada, e. g., make a photocopy of a page from a book for noncommercial purposes, that it will be illegal if I try this with an e-book where I need to break a digital lock. In effect, all copying becomes illegal if there’s a digital lock or other ‘technological protection measure’, which is likely with provisions such as this while we move to using more and more towards using digital media.

Intriguingly, an earlier posting by Michael Geist which focused on the original bill C-61 cited a research paper with a focus on copyright policy in Canada, the US, and Mexico where this was noted,

According to [Michèle] Austin [chief of staff for then Industry Canada Minister, Maxime Bernier], the decision to introduce U.S.-style DMCA [digital lock] rules in Canada in 2007 was strictly a political decision, the result of pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office desire to meet U.S. demands. She states “the Prime Minister’s Office’s position was, move quickly, satisfy the United States.” When Bernier and then-Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda protested, the PMO replied “we don’t care what you do, as long as the U.S. is satisfied.” [emphasis mine]

Thankfully, the new bill according to Geist and other sources he cites (I recommend reading his blog if you’re interested in this issue), is fairly balanced overall except for the digital lock provision.

There are two possibilities that come to mind when I consider how this ‘digital lock provision’ in the new copyright bill could have an impact on science in Canada. First, if publishers put locks on articles in science journals, you’d no longer be able to copy and paste selections (properly cited of course) into your own paper.

Second, copyright is a subclassification, along with patents and trademarks, of intellectual property law. While all three are intended to protect the creators of content, products, etc., they are often used as legal tools to intimidate competitors (large corporations or agencies such as the International Olympics Committee) or extort money (patent trolls), which tends to suppress innovation and competition. Restricting use through a new copyright law may not have a direct effect on patent law but the environment in which business and the legal profession operate will be affected and I strongly suspect adversely so.

I mentioned yesterday, The OECD Innovation Strategy: Getting a Head Start on Tomorrow and its Key Findings report. From p. 18,

An important contributor to building such networks and markets is the ability to own certain kinds of knowledge, as recognised by intellectual property rights [IPR]. IPRs provide an important incentive to invest in innovation by allowing firms to recover their investment costs. Patents are particularly important for small firms, as they can facilitate entry into new markets and enable competition and collaboration with other firms. IPRs should be well protected and appropriately enforced. Weak protection of IPRs undermines incentives to invest in innovation, facilitates counterfeiting and piracy, reduces the potential for technology transfer and limits the formation of markets for knowledge.

However, the protection of knowledge needs to be combined with policies and mechanisms that facilitate access and transfer. Excessively strong IPR may hamper the appropriate use of protected knowledge and discourage follow-on research and research in adjacent areas to the detriment of both competition and innovation.

I certainly consider the ‘digital lock provision’ in the current bill (C-32) as excessively strong and I don’t see how it helps innovation and competition (I think competition arises from innovation which is why I put it second).

Canada’s new copyright bill being introduced June 3, 2010 (we think), NFB, RIP!, and student copyright video

Last week’s handy dandy National Film Board (NFB) newsletter directed me to their blog post about copyright, documentary filmmaking guidelines, and the video, RIP!  From Julie Martin’s May 19, 2010 posting,

The Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) released a set of guidelines last week that help filmmakers make sense of how to use copyrighted materials in their films. The Guidelines draw on existing fair dealing provisions set out in the Copyright Act.

In addition to finding out more about the guidelines, you can also access, embedded in the posting, a related  NFB documentary RIP! A Remix Manifesto by Brett Gaylor (approx. 85 mins.), if you follow the link.

Meanwhile,  Michael Geist offers two postings of interest, one about a student-produced video (he offers the English language version and a link to the French language version) calling for fair copyright. In his second posting, Geist offers information about the government’s new bill which is to be introduced (according to reports) this Thursday, June 3, 2010. From the posting,

This is copyright week in Canada as multiple reports indicate that the long-awaited copyright bill will be tabled on Thursday. The recent round of reports are noteworthy for several reasons. First, they confirm earlier reports that the government plans to introduce DMCA-style anti-circumvention legislation.

There’s more including possible changes to fair use and the suspicion that the government may try to fast track the legislation by holding summer hearings.

Transparent aluminum and copyright gone crazy

Happy BC Day! This will be a shortish posting. Transparent aluminum (or aluminium as the Brits say), an imaginary metal seen in Star Trek movie no. 4, became a reality for 40 femtoseconds (femto = quadrillionth)  in an experiment run at Oxford University. From the media release on the Nanowerk website,

“For a brief period the sample looks and behaves in every way like a new form of matter. In certain respects, the way it reacts is as though we had changed every aluminium atom into silicon: it’s almost as surprising as finding that you can turn lead into gold with light!’ [according to Professor Justin Wark]

Note the reference to alchemy. For more technical details, do visit Nanowerks.

I came across a maddening item on copyright about 10 days ago where a music professor tried to get permission from the original authors to quote sentences in a book about music.

I’ve been trying to get permission simply to refer to Fluxus pieces like La Monte Young’s “This piece is little whirlpools in the middle of the ocean,” and Yoko Ono’s “Listen to the sound of the earth turning.” And of course, Yoko (whom I used to know) isn’t responding, and La Monte is imposing so many requirements and restrictions that I would have to add a new chapter to the book, and so in frustration well past the eleventh hour, I’ve excised the pieces from the text.

The rest of the article is here on Techdirt. This piece hit home because when I was teaching about five years ago, I was told that giving attribution for every article I was using in my handouts wasn’t enough, I would have to get permission to use them. I had been teaching the course for a few years and suddenly I had  a new requirement. Why? One of the instructors had a lawyer as a guest lecturer and the lawyer raised all kinds of concerns scaring the programme admin staff who in turn insisted that instructors get permission for handouts. It was an exercise in frustration and futility. I gather from this article in Techdirt that the situation is getting worse.  So if  you have opinions on copyright and want to make yourself heard to the Canadian government, this is the time to do it. There is a consultation which is being run until Sept. 13, 2009 online as well as round table meetings and town hall meetings. Details are here.

The poetry of Canadian Copyright Law

Techdirt had an item, Intellectual Property Laws Rewrittten as Poetry. The poet, Yehuda Berlinger, has included Canada’s copyright law in the oeuvre. You can read the verse here. It’s surprisingly informative given how amusing and concise the verses are.

On a completely other note, there’s an article in Fast Company about a haptic exhibition in Japan that’s quite intriguing in light of the Nokia Morph. Part of an exhibit last year, the Morph concept is a flexible, foldable, bendable (you get the idea) phone. As far as I know, they (University of Cambridge and Nokia) have yet to produce a prototype (last year they had an animation which demonstrated the concept). Getting back to Japan, one of the exhibits was a design for speakers where you control the volume by changing their shapes. Haptic Speakers: Reach Out and Touch Some Sound is the article. Do go and read it. I found it very helpful to see the pictures (which seems ironic given that the article is about the sense of touch).

I’ve been curious about research concerning disabled folks and using their ‘thought waves’ to control equipment or machinery. I’ve found a description of some of the research in Richard Jones’s blog but it’s in the context of a discussion of Ray Kurzweil and some of Kurzweil’s ideas regarding the ‘singularity’. Anyway, Jones offers a good description of some of the ‘thought wave’ research. As for Kurzweil, one of these days I will try and read some of the material he’s written. The little I have seen suggests that he has absolutely no concept of human nature, in much the same way that economists don’t.

Green nano and too much intellectual property

US Congress approved the reauthorization of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Act in June 2008. First approved in 2003, this new version of the act includes, for the first time, provisions for “a proactive research plan to account for environmental, health, and safety issues involved in nanotechnology research.” There’s more from the news release here. Jim Hutchison, a chemistry professor from the University of Oregon, is one of the leaders in ‘green’ nanotechnology and one the prime advocates for the new inclusion to the act. There’s an interview with Jim Hutchision here.  The Senate was supposed to be considering the revised bill now (during September 2008) but, given the financial services and structure situation in the US, I would imagine that this bill will be set aside for a time.

There’s a new report from the The Innovation Partnership (based in Canada) suggesting that intellectual property laws are stifling innovation and cutting off whole areas of research. The discussion centers largely around biotechnology but the freezing of innovation is felt everywhere not just in the sciences. There are more details in an article (which mentions nanotechnology at the end) here and in the report here. I gather that the report is advising that a new model for intellectual property law be adopted.

The entertainment industry (music, movies, books, etc.) is engaged in huge fights over intellectual property issues. (1) JK Rowling (Harry Potter books) just won her case against a publisher who was producing a Harry Potter lexicon. I gather that from a legal perspective (even with the current intellectual property laws in place) she shouldn’t have won and would likely lose on appeal. Of course, does the publisher have enough money to continue with an appeals process?  (2) The Canadian government introduced a draconian Copyright Act or revision to the current act which would make keeping a copy of an old tv programme illegal after a period of time. In other words, if you videotaped Buffy the Vampire Slayer eight years ago when it was on tv and you still have a copy, you’d be in violation of the new act. The proposed Act would create any number of new legal violations and I gather these new provisions were heavily influenced by some US-based lobby group.  From the writer’s perspective, I’m torn. I’m happy to share my work but I wouldn’t be happy to have someone copy my work and subsequently make a fortune from it.  I guess it’s a question of being fairly compensated for my work and getting acknowledgment of my contribution.

Getting back to JK Rowling and the lexicon, she’s gotten more than adequate compensation for her work from various sources and the lexicon attributes the work to her. The author of the lexicon has gone through the books and created a reference for anyone who reads Rowling’s books. Arguably the lexicon assists sales of her books because now a reader can look up a reference to a character in Book 5 who was first introduced in Book 2 and not mentioned since. The lexicon makes things easier for the reader.