The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

Will Copyright Bill Be Obsolete on Arrival?

Designing one to last is Minister Clement's core concern.

By Michael Geist 19 Aug 2009 |

Michael Geist, whose column on digital policy and politics runs every Tuesday on the Tyee, holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can reached at or online at

image atom
It's got to be solid, yet flexible.

As the national copyright consultation launched earlier this summer hits its midway point, the first four weeks have attracted considerable interest. There have already been more than a thousand submissions, one town hall meeting, and five roundtable discussions, with many Canadians visiting to provide their views on copyright reform.

Changes such as expanded fair dealing, legal protection for digital locks, and new digital levies have emerged as the most-discussed issues. However, many are still grappling with one of Industry Minister Tony Clement's core concerns: In an era of rapidly changing technology, how does the government ensure that a new copyright bill is built to last?

Clement's focus on longevity appears to be a tacit acknowledgement that Bill C-61, the last Conservative copyright bill that died with the federal election call in the fall, was not sufficiently forward looking. With specific references to VHS tapes, emphasis on digital rights management, and blocks on the use of network-based personal video recorders, critics argued that the bill was past its 'best before' date the moment it was introduced.

Four ways to make it last

Designing copyright reforms that are not rendered outdated soon after introduction requires identifying the right principles to use as a metric against which new provisions can be measured. At least four come to mind.

First, copyright law should strive for balance between creator rights and users' rights. If the law tilts too far in one direction, the other side is virtually guaranteed to put the issue of reform back on the table and the changes do not last.

Second, the law must be technologically neutral. Copyright has proven remarkably resilient over the decades in large measure because it states broad principles about the scope and limits of protection. If copyright veers too far toward specific technologies by mandating new protection for specific business models or technological innovations, those rules risk being overtaken as the technologies and marketplace evolve.

Third, the law should strive for simplification and clarity. Copyright may once have been a niche issue understood by a small number of experts, but today it affects the daily lives of millions. If Canadians are to respect the law, they must first understand it. When Bill C-61 proposed a 12-part test to determine whether recording a television program was legal, it rendered the law far too complex for the average person.

Fourth, the law should embrace flexibility, which has allowed many copyright provisions to adapt to continually changing economic and technology environments. Flexibility takes a general-purpose law and ensures that it works for stakeholders across the spectrum -- whether they are documentary film makers, musicians, teachers, researchers, businesses or consumers.

Stick to principles

How would these principles apply to the thorniest issues faced by Clement and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore?

On the issue of fair dealing, balance requires that it remain fair dealing, not free dealing. Technological neutrality, simplification and flexibility all suggest that the best approach may be to expand the current list of fair dealing exceptions by making it illustrative rather than exhaustive. Courts would be freed to add new exceptions such as parody or recording television shows. This approach would remove the link to specific technologies and would build in new legal flexibility.

Similarly, on the issue of digital locks, linking the picking or circumvention of a digital lock to the intent to infringe copyrights would retain the copyright balance, avoid the need for complex exceptions, and do away with specific references to technology.

Copyright reform is never simple, but a principled, forward-looking approach is the right place to start.  [Tyee]

Read more: Science + Tech

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll