Meera Nair

International Standards

In Posts on June 3, 2010 at 9:11 pm

The details of Bill C-32 are posted; reviewing the changes will take both time and patience. The Summary details what purpose these amendments should serve, with the first order of business being to:

Update the rights and protections of copyright owners to better address the challenges and opportunities of the Internet, so as to be in line with international standards;

Meaning to say, fulfill the WIPO Treaties.

Last year’s consultation indicated that, by and large, Canadians support the principles of international cooperation as expressed by these treaties. Yet the representation of the WIPO Treaties has been one-sided; to a casual observer it would seem that the WIPO Treaties were only about the rights of the copyright holder (And even in that area, the flexibility permitted in approach has not received due attention.) The Preamble of the WIPO Copyright Treaty provides the full scope of the international standard we should aspire to:

The Contracting Parties,
Desiring to develop and maintain the protection of the rights of authors in their literary and artistic works in a manner as effective and uniform as possible,
Recognizing the need to introduce new international rules and clarify the interpretation of certain existing rules in order to provide adequate solutions to the questions raised by new economic, social, cultural and technological developments,
Recognizing the profound impact of the development and convergence of information and communication technologies on the creation and use of literary and artistic works,
Emphasizing the outstanding significance of copyright protection as an incentive for literary and artistic creation,

[and my favourite]

Recognizing the need to maintain a balance between the rights of authors and the larger public interest, particularly education, research and access to information, as reflected in the Berne Convention.

Well, what about the Berne Convention? This international agreement established minimal standards not only for copyright protection but also for permitting free uses of copyrighted work. For instance, legal texts and legal materials may be removed from the ambit of copyright. One non-negotiable permitted use is that of quotation, provided the source is given and the overall use is fair. Member nations enjoy discretionary powers for setting the uses of works as they relate to “current events.” And there’s more … Throughout, discretionary free uses are governed by the overarching principle of Article 9(2) which states that such uses should not conflict with the normal exploitation of a work.

This raises a critical question – how far is Canada going to expand the purview of what is considered “normal exploitation?”

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