Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sign, Adhere, Ratify: Sufficient Adherence vs. Fair Copyright

Normally an international treaty of any kind goes through a process in law, to be the law of the land.

The treaty process presents a sovereignty decision to the Government: does the domestic law provide sufficiently determinative, unambiguous law for interpretation, or will the treaty itself serve this purpose?

If domestic law is to have primacy, to aid the people living by this law in this country, then what changes are required for sufficient adherence to the treaty, to obtain the treaty's benefits with other treaty partners?

Sufficient adherence is the minimal requirements for this treaty to be ratified and be brought into domestic law, effectively. Beyond sufficiency, the adherence beyond this minimum becomes a choice to surrender domestic legal control unnecessarily to the International interests motivating the treaty.

The WIPO treaties are such treaties presenting choices on adherence: to what degree do we need to adhere to it, to be sufficient to provide in our laws guidance so the treaty itself, if in force, will not prevail over domestic law?

To do this, one needs to know the sufficient adherence required in law, and its real impact in several spheres of power: economic, political, and cultural.

In going beyond this level of accession, the national interests in this milieu must be more severely examined of what is impacted by the policy options beyond sufficiency that are open to us, to the casually referred to "stronger" or "weaker" copyright protections.

"Fair" copyright law is not good enough as marker from this perspective, because "fair" represents a balance, indicating wise choices. The question to address, is such "fair" copyright law within the sufficient adherence determined by examining the legal requirements in detail? If "fair" copyright law is not within this determination, and the mass of people agree, then it will be a poor decision of the representative government to choose the addition into domestic law beyond this "fair" level.

If on the other hand "fair" copyright law is above the sufficient adherence level of the international treaty, the "fair" copyright choice become a viable reform and the treaty can be adhered to readily. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I count on the public debate to come, to answer this question better than it has. I want to see if sufficient adherence is above or below the fair copyright law choices we want and can also make. I want to see an explanation of how far past sufficiency the choices have been taken, for they will reveal the political approach chosen to making a strong Canada, and perhaps the influence of the private interests in this matter, including foreign interests.

Today I want to know what changes must be made, that are fair, retain balance, and go not a word past than what is required by these International treaties. Beyond that stated goal, the Copyright reform process can indeed be a future discussion.

However, if the sufficient adherence required is beyond "fair," we must have a deferral on this issue. We can wait as long as we desire to because others did so on other copyright treaties until it was in their national interests, and so can we in our own defence.

Reading prior legal opinion on what our law already accomplishes, mindful also of the aspersions cast on it, and the specific disparager's as they have come along, I remind the reader of this baseline sufficiency statement, quoted previously in my post Balance Interests Fairly:

The current Copyright Act provides sufficient protection for new and existing works, including multimedia works, created or distributed in a digital medium. The current copyright legislative and policy framework is, for the most part, sufficiently flexible to provide the means to effectively enforce copyright on the Information Highway and, at the same time,to provide users with reasonable access to protected works.

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