Canadian copyright law made headlines in the latter part of 2007 and in the early part of 2008 as there were indications from the federal government that new copyright legislation was on its way.

Despite promises from the federal government to introduce new legislation, no progress was actually made. In November 2007, after having signalled to the public that the government was prepared to introduce a bill to bring Canada "up-to-date" with Canada’s international intellectual property law commitments, including the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty, the government subsequently decided not to introduce any such legislation. There had been indications that proposed legislation was going to adopt U.S. style Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)-type provisions. In response, opponents of that approach to copyright law voiced their discontent in the "blogosphere" as well as voicing their discontent at a town hall meeting at the constituency office of the Minister of Industry, Jim Prentice. Some commentators suggested that such public outcry was one of the reasons why the government did not move forward. As of the date of publication, there has been no indication when legislation might actually be tabled.

The federal Privacy Commissioner of Canada has also waded into the debate over proposed reforms to the copyright law regime in Canada. In an open letter to the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Canadian Heritage dated January 18, 2008, Jennifer Stoddart raised her concerns about the potential privacy implications of copyright law reform. Her concerns relates to how technical protection measures (used to prevent copyright infringement) and how proposed "notice and notice" schemes might have negative impact on the privacy rights of Canadian.

With respect to technical protection measures, the Privacy Commission notes in her letter that she is concerned that "privacy protections for Canadians would be weakened if changes to the Copyright Act authorized the use of technical mechanisms to protect copyrighted material that resulted in the collection, use and disclosure of personal information without consent".

With respect to the issue of "notice and notice" schemes (whereby a copyright holder could provide notice to an internet service provider requiring: (i) the ISP to provide the copyright holder with information about an alleged infringer of the copyright holder’s rights; and (ii) to retain information about the individual use of the network for up to one year while investigations take place), the Privacy Commissioner notes that such a practice might amount to being a "precedent-setting provision that would seriously weaken privacy protection" as: (a) earlier "notice and notice" proposals did not provide for any thresholds before a notice could be issued by the copyright holder; and (b) retaining personal information for an extended period of time could violate the privacy law principle that a party should only keep personal information for a limited amount of time and for a limited purpose.

More information available at:

http://tinyurl.com/yr73at  

http://tinyurl.com/yvujbn  

The Privacy Commissioner’s letter is available at:

http://tinyurl.com/2qeowh