Meera Nair

It wasn’t news…

In Posts on May 29, 2010 at 8:06 am

On Thursday Sarah Schmidt reported in the National Post that Industry Minister Tony Clement had broken copyright law in building his iPod collection. He had transferred content from CDs shared within his family, even though content shifting is not permitted by the current Copyright Act. But as the Minister said, “That’s what happens in a family. You do tend to share music that way and I think most people would find that to be perfectly acceptable behaviour. But our current law is so antiquated, it doesn’t contemplate that situation.”

In the comments, Steve the Pundit asks, “Seriously, this is NEWS?!”

My answer: it wasn’t news; it was a press release.

The proposed amendments are rumoured to be just days away from unveiling. I find it hard to believe that one of the ministers in charge would be so rash as to confess to behaviour that might end up leaving him on the wrong side of a new law. Far more likely is that this was the Federal Government’s way of softly publicizing one aspect of its proposed reforms. To soothe the electorate, and position the amendments as being family-friendly. It makes for good politics.

And it’s plausible that the amendments will allow some content shifting. The real question is will such an allowance then be nullified by other proposed measures? Meaning to say, will technological protection measures reign supreme? Ministers Moore and Clement can giveth in one section, and taketh in another. We’ll have to wait and see.

But Minister Clement’s remarks were interesting for another reason. His rationale was based on the practices exercised within families and deemed acceptable by people in general. I hope that same logic carries when he considers fair dealing. To be able to make good-faith critical and productive uses of existing work is the essence of creativity; fair dealing enables such uses. Fair dealing may be esoteric in name, but the practices it represents are not.

Fair Dealing becomes worse-than-antiquated if content is locked down – it becomes useless.

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