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‘No reason’ to follow U.S. trends in copyright

by Archives January 15, 2008

Even though Canada signed an international treaty designed to implement harsher copyright laws, a professor from the University of Western Ontario believes there is no reason for the government to pass a bill supporting it.
“Canada does not really have any treaty obligations until parliament decides that it is in Canada’s interest to oblige,” said Samuel Trosow, a professor in both the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at UWO.
Trosow came to Concordia on Monday night to talk about Canadian copyright law, but he also discussed the issue of a recent Copyright Bill that has caused quite a stir in the country.
The proposed Bill would change copyright laws in Canada to make them similar to those in the United States. This would mean that the average Canadian could no longer legally download music onto an iPod or share audio and video files online.
The U.S implementation of the WIPO treaty came in the form of the Digital Milleniuim Copyright Act, in 1998. The act directly prevents the public from getting around exhaustive protection measures for copywritten work, making even the simplest sharing of information illegal.
“More and more people see copyright rules as potentially affecting their daily lives,” said Trosow. He also added that Canadians are angry because they do not want to lose the chance to use other peoples’ works to explore their own creativity.
“The modern information technologies have made it possible for many people to communicate their works to an unlimited audience,” he said.
In defense of those who aim to copyright their work, Trosow said, “If we’re really interested in helping creators, there are a lot of policy tools besides the expansion of intellectual property rules.” Properly funding artists and resolving their contract issues are ways of doing this, he added.
According to Trosow, the proposed Bill is the result of pressure on Canada from the U.S. to alter its copyright rules in compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaty, that Canada signed in 1996. Canada is a member of WIPO, a United Nations body that shapes information policy around the world.
The WIPO treaty is an international treaty that aims to protect the owners of copywritten works, available to people globally through electronic means, from infringement.
Trosow added that Canada has been placed on a trade-watch list by the U.S., as a pressure tactic to force the country to change its copyright rules to suit U.S. entertainment lobby groups and other commercial interests.
“This is how they operate around the world,” he added.
Trosow also said that, “even if Canada does feel pressured to comply with WIPO, they should do so in a very measured way.”
Canadian copyright rules already comply, more or less, with the terms of the treaty, and nothing but a little “tweaking” is required, he said.
When asked which area requires tweaking, Trosow said, “That’s what I want to know. I want some government analysis with the Bill, saying that this is what needs to be done.”

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