Meera Nair

Letters and more letters…

In Posts on June 19, 2010 at 8:43 pm

After reading Michael Geist’s last blog entry, I thought I would look into the Balanced Copyright For Canadians site. The creators of the site give their intentions as:

This website was created to allow Canadian creators, artists and those whose jobs rely directly on being able to be paid for what they create to show their support for the newly-announced Copyright Modernization Act, or Bill C-32.

The home page provides commentary on the proposed changes to the Copyright Act. That is helpful, albeit the site organizers cherry pick the articles which support Bill C-32. But such is their prerogative. However, the site facilities are not transparent – one has to establish an account to actively engage. Which I just won’t do. So sorry – but I don’t like leaving a trail of personal information throughout cyberspace. Call me old-fashioned.

Michael Geist’s post includes samples of form letters provided by the site. These letters are to be sent, without alteration, to Members of Parliament. I wonder how effective such letters will be? A prior consultation gave consideration to that question, and placed a lesser emphasis upon such letters. Here’s a blast from the past…

In 2001, Canadians were invited to contribute to a national consultation on copyright. The Ministries of Industry and Canadian Heritage prepared An Overview of Submissions On the Consultation Paper on Digital Copyright Issues. Approximately 670 submissions were made, with an additional 60 reply comments posted. But the use of form letters was a challenge for government officials:

Approximately 234 seem to have been clearly identified with or closely modeled on a form letter provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. … these letters are only reflected in the following statistics where they elaborate on the substantive issues raised in the consultation documents (p.3).

Sara Bannerman had interviewed a senior policy analyst within the Federal Government on this matter; he said:

The people who didn’t change the form letter – we felt they couldn’t be included in that kind of statistic … since they didn’t engage with the issue – we couldn’t say exactly how they felt on it. So it wouldn’t be fair to that kind of computation to include [the form letters] in that area because they didn’t actually say what they felt … it wasn’t our place to interpret what they said.

[See Sara Bannerman, “Canadian Copyright Reform: Consulting with Copyright’s Changing Public,” in Intellectual Property Journal, Apr 2006; 19.2, p.287].

The Federal Government has posted some comments on the outcome of the 2009 consultation process at the other Balanced Copyright site. It would be helpful if a report to the level of detail found in 2001 is forthcoming.

Update April 28, 2011 – I replaced the url for the Overview document as the previous link no longer worked.

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