Michael Geist: Taking user rights seriously — two weeks that changed copyright

At the Global Congress in Cape Town, Michael Geist reflects on the two weeks that changed copyright in Canada in 2012. Canada went from a maximalist copyright trajectory in 2005 to the global champion of user rights in 2012. Canada’s new legislation includes the most favourable provisions for users across a huge range of issues; Canada’s Supreme Court cemented users rights as a practical tool in five decisions delivered on a single day in 2012.

Geist reflects on the lessons from Canadian reform. Why did it happen?

  1. Politics.

  2. Personalities. Chief Justice McLachlin & Justice Abdella provided a vision about what copyright was for. Politicans: Ministers Clement & Moore came with a vision for reform; MPs Bulte & Angus were able to argue for the interests of their constituents. Copyright scholars were active in shaping the discourse.

  3. Most important was the public. 90,000 that joined facebook group; 8,000 that participated in the consultation. Two letters from a constituency are enough for an MP to take notice and pay attention.

Geist seems optimistic about grassroots reform, if the public can become organised. Of course, this probably oversimplifies and underestimates the massive amount of work the Geist and others put in to organise the opposition to Canada’s maximalist proposals.