The Office of the United States Trade Representative released its annual Special 301 report. The report highlights a list of countries that are the worst offenders for distributing copyrighted material, and do not have, in the USTR’s opinion sufficient legislative protections against these “crimes.”
Canada has moved from the lower priority “watch list” to the “priority” watch list. This move was made after pressure from companies such as Microsoft and Apple, part of the The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), claimed that Canada was not protecting their own products from piracy. Their report was filed in 2007 and in it they claimed that:
"Canada’s long tenure on the USTR Watch List seems to have had no discernible effect on its copyright policy. Almost alone among developed economies in the OECD, Canada has taken no steps toward modernizing its copyright law to meet the new global minimum standards of the WIPO Internet Treaties, which Canada signed a decade ago. Its enforcement record also falls far short of what should be expected of our neighbor and largest trading partner.
"Pirates have taken advantage of the gaps in Canadian law to make it a leading exporter, both of camcorded masters that feed audio-visual piracy worldwide, and of devices – illegal in most global markets besides Canada – that are intended to circumvent technological protection measures used by the publishers of entertainment software. Canada lacks effective border controls on pirated products, and most of its other enforcement efforts suffer from insufficient resources and a lack of deterrent impact.
"To underscore U.S. insistence that Canada take action to address the serious piracy problem it has allowed to develop just across our border, and that it bring its outmoded laws up to contemporary international standards, IIPA recommends that Canada be elevated to the Priority Watch List in 2007."
Canada remained on the low priority list until this year. Stanford McCoy, assistant U.S. trade representative for intellectual property and innovation, said that Canada had not fulfilled promises that they would enact legislation that would prevent “illegal” software and video distribution. In January 2008, Privacy Commisoner Jennifer Stoddart sent a letter to Jim Prentice, then Minister of Industry, and Josée Verner, Minister of Heritage. In the letter she encouraged the ministers to not make proposed changes to the Canadian copyright act. Sighting instead that the responsibility should lie with the owners of the material.
“As you know, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is responsible for overseeing two statutes, the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Specifically, my concerns arise from my mandate under PIPEDA which stipulates that entities engaged in commercial activities may collect, use or disclose personal information “only for purposes that a reasonable person would consider are appropriate in the circumstances” and only the personal information necessary for that purpose. Except in specified situations, personal information may not be collected, used or disclosed without the knowledge and consent of the individual to whom the personal information relates.”
Going on to say that: “Allowing a private sector organization to require an ISP to retain personal information is a precedent-setting provision that would seriously weaken privacy protections. When this provision was proposed in a previous proposal to amend the legislation it did not include any threshold that had to be met before the notice could be issued, nor did it provide any means for the ISP to contest the demand to retain the data. The extended retention periods create additional privacy concerns. PIPEDA requires that organizations retain personal information for only as long as necessary to fulfill the purposes for which the information was originally collected. Limiting the extent of data collection and period of retention is a key strategy to minimize the risk of data breaches of personal information.”
The statute did not pass, but this did not stop corporations such and Sony-BMG, and Universal sending out threatening emails to customers they had observed making downloads of their materials, information they would have collected through third parties, and at that - illegally.
Industry Minister Stockwell Day was made aware last week that Canada was going to appear on the watch list, but reports about Canada’s upgrade to a priority target have been circulating since early February.
With a number of countries beginning to adhere to US requests on this issue, it is expected that Canada will enact some of the legislation that it has been talking about for the past 2 years. Swedish website The Pirate Bay’s founders found that out this past month when they were found guilty of found guilty of assistance to copyright infringement and sentenced to one year in prison and payment of a fine of 30 million SEK (approximately 3,620,000 US).