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National copyright talks kick off in Vancouver

VANCOUVER - After a frustrated attempt to pass new copyright legislation last year, the Conservatives have started a new round of consultations to guide the creation of a new copyright law.

Heritage Minister James Moore and Minister of Industry Tony Clement kicked off the process yesterday morning, when they met with fourteen stakeholders and industry representatives for a closed round table event in Vancouver.

The consultations are the government's response to demands by artists, activists, and concerned people across Canada who turned out in droves to oppose Bill C-61 last year.

"We're very happy that it's happening," said Geoffrey Glass, who participated in yesterday's round table as a member of the group Vancouver Fair Copyright.

"But the process is new to us, we only heard about it last week, so we don't know in detail what's going to happen," Glass told the Vancouver Media Co-op by phone.

Last minute notice about the copyright consultations wasn't the only thing that irked watchdogs.

"There has been some criticism over the past week about perceived 'A' lists for those invited to roundtables and those excluded," wrote Michael Geist, the University of Ottawa's internet law specialist, in a blog post yesterday.

"My view is that the only list that really matters is the list of people who take the time to make a public submission," he added.

Glass agrees with Professor Geist, calling the participation of Canadians in the online submission process "essential."

Copyright law touches on various facets of people's daily lives. The law proposal which was shelved last year could have fined people for changing cellphone companies, jailbreaking iphones, and playing foreign DVDs in Canada.

The US$1.92 million suit against Jammie Thomas-Rasset for sharing 24 songs on Kazaa points to some of the effects of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which became law in 1998.

"I know that the Ministers are in frequent, probably weekly, contact with the people pushing for draconian copyright laws," said Glass. "So I think the best way for us to respond to that is for large numbers of Canadians to emphasize that we care about this."

The government of Canada claimed in a press release yesterday that they are "leveraging new technologies" in order to provide "as many people as possible with access to our consultative process."

The first public announcement of yesterday's launch came in the form of an update late last week from James Moore's Twitter account, which stated "Copyright consultations begin Monday in Vancouver. This is a substantive and sincere effort to move this issue forward."

People who are unable to make it to the town halls in Toronto and Montreal later this summer can make submissions to the copyright consultation website until September 13.

Dawn Paley is a Vancouver-based journalist. This first appeared on Vancouver Media Co-op.

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