INDU Committee Report
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Section 92 of the Copyright Act (the Act) provides that the Act must be reviewed every five years by a parliamentary committee. On 13 December 2017, the House of Commons designated its Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (the Committee) to conduct the review. The Committee held 52 meetings, heard 263 witnesses, collected 192 briefs, and received more than 6,000 emails and other correspondence.
The Committee consulted a broad range of stakeholders to ensure all perspectives were duly considered. These stakeholders included, among others, creators, educational institutions, industry representatives, teachers, students, interest groups, broadcasters, online service providers, Internet service providers, collective societies, lawyers, and academics. The Committee also dedicated a portion of the review to Indigenous groups and individuals, which could become standard practice when formulating copyright policy. The Committee gathered evidence in a systematic manner that allowed witnesses to bring forth the issues that mattered to them. This report cites every single person who provided oral testimony or submitted a brief to the Committee, and thus recognizes that the complexity of copyright policy requires every issue to be carefully weighed.
The fruit of over ten meetings of deliberations, this Committee’s report covers a broad range of topics. They include the protection of traditional and cultural expressions, term extension, computer-generated works, artist’s resale rights, fair dealing, safe harbour provisions, perceptual disability provisions, online piracy, proceedings before the Copyright Board of Canada, and the statutory review process itself. After reporting on a few legal developments of the last seven years, the report addresses these topics in turn under six sections: Statutory Review, Indigenous Matters, Rights, Exceptions, Enforcement, and the Collective Administration of Rights.
The report makes 36 recommendations. They include recommendations aiming at reducing the opaqueness of Canadian copyright law, notably by gathering authoritative information on its impact on Canadian creators and creative industries, increasing the transparency of the collective administration of rights, and simplifying the Act. The Committee recommends improving the bargaining power of Canadian creators by granting them a termination right while mitigating the impact of such a right on the commercial exploitation of copyright. It also proposes to sensibly update enforcement mechanisms, starting with statutory damages for rights-holders and collective societies. The recommendations address site-blocking proposals and their potential impact on the form and function of Internet, and assert that online service providers such as Google and Facebook must fully comply with the Act to the benefit of both rights-holders and users. The report also proposes to move forward to protect traditional and cultural expressions, vitally informed by the testimony of Indigenous witnesses.
Readers will find in the report many “Committee observations.” While these observations do not amount to recommendations, they constitute a genuine effort to respond and engage with stakeholders who have taken the time and expended resources to partake in the review, rather than leaving them to speculate on the Committee’s motives. The Committee hopes these observations will help stakeholders learn from and reflect on this exercise. This report will not end the debate around copyright law, but it will hopefully help moving it forward.