Canada to U.S.: please blacklist us! -

Canada to U.S.: please blacklist us!

Newly-released WikiLeaks cables show Ottawa lobbied for inclusion on copyright watch list


Hyper-vigilant Internet Law Prof Michael Geist seems to be the first to have combed through the latest batch of WikiLeaks diplomatic cables, searching for any document containing the words “Canada” and “copyright.” And guess what he found?

  • In a 2006 cable, Industry Minister Maxime Bernier promised to leak a copy of his Canadian copyright reform bill to U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins before it was introduced in Parliament.
  • In a 2007 cable, the Privy Council Office disclosed to the U.S. details of confidential mandate letters Harper had sent to new ministers, demanding that they get copyright in line with U.S. demands as soon as possible.
  • In 2009, Industry Minister Tony Clement’s policy director asked U.S. officials to add Canada to their Special 301 Priority Watch List—also known as the Copyright Blacklist and the Copyright Hall of Shame. They did, placing us alongside China, Russia and Pakistan as one of the world’s worst nations when it comes to piracy and bootlegging.

So why would Canada want to be on this list? Because it might shame the public into accepting the Conservatives’ backwards copyright bill, which made breaking any digital lock for any reason a crime. The bill died prematurely when the last federal election was called, but it’s expected to be back soon, and there’s no reason to believe it will be changed in any meaningful way.

If you’re new to the copyright reform issue, it may surprise you to learn that the federal government has been routinely selling us out to the U.S.

But if you’ve been following this stuff for a while, it’s no great shocker.

Jesse Brown is the host of’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown



Canada to U.S.: please blacklist us!

  1. So. Harper supporters.. could you kindly explain this to me? I’m having difficulty seeing how this is good for Canada.

    CR? Turd? hollinm? Any of you?

    • Could take a while,  they’ve got a lot of swallowing to do.

    • One reason I can think of, is that by having copyright protection equal to that of the US, it would be easier to access content from the big studio’s that might not be so eager to enter our market otherwise. I’m mostly thinking of Netflix. And I could see the studio’s being reluctant to let their content into Canada via Netflix considering our lax copyright protection.

      Having similar regulations for any industry between two countries will always make trade between the two easier.

      • Netflix’s limited library in Canada has nothing to do with our copyright regime – it’s because the big telecoms have already contracted for exclusive rights in each market to stream the best content, pay-per-view. In Ontario, for instance, if you live somewhere serviced by Rogers, less is available to you than in areas where they aren’t the cable provider.

      • Nope. Netflix can already selectively allow media based on country of origin or access.

      • That’s the ticket, Rick – deny Canadians access to legitimate sources to stop them using illicit sources.  

      • Netflix et al. won’t enter the Canadian market in part because we have TOO MUCH copyright protection, too many layered rights, and too many copyright collectives to pay off.

      • US content cannot be accessed because outside US that content is licensed to third parties (e.g. Canadian networks).

        We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can not allow access to our service for users located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global service, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

    • It’s not. No defense here; it’s just bad policy. Good luck getting the Liberals or an NDP-actually-in-power to be any better on IP, though.

      • Liberals were better when in power though. The DMCA didn’t spring up on the eve of the CPC election, and the Liberals didn’t bother touching copyright law at all after it did.

        • Bad copyright policy arises when the biggest IP owners – studios and music labels – have American legislators in their pockets. Who then pressure other governments to follow suit. Having a Michael Geist-approved platform during a campaign is one thing; continuing to be that resolute, without Chretien’s incredible rancor to the US in all things, I don’t buy.

    • Smells like treasonous behaviour to me.  How much economic damage did being placed on the 301 list cause?

  2. No surprises but didn’t think we would resort to begging to sell out .. a new low

    • Yeah.  At least Mulroney was (allegedly) well paid to (allegedly) sell us out.

      Other than perhaps Deif, have we ever had a Conservative PM who didn’t (allegedly) sell us out to the US in one form or another?

  3. This is outrageous. Elected officials working against our national interest and breaching member privilege (again) while they’re at it. 

  4. Yay!  Relevant again!

    • Canada’s back, baby.

  5. To everyone more concerned about being as partisan about this as possible, which is virtually everyone on the planet, I’d like to point something out:

    When someone from the other side says “your side did this. What do you have to say about it?” and you respond with “Your side did it first/it was started by your side”… are you aware that you’re both essentially in agreement with the subject (in this case, this was a bad move/direction for Canada to take) but you’re willing to turn a blind eye or avoid the issue when your side is the responsible party.

    People need to stop putting up with crap from their side that they wouldn’t take from the other side. It’s the height of ridiculousness and is virtually the norm in modern politics.

    If all someone can contribute to political discourse is to throw insults around, or disregard opinions, simply based on the political leanings of the person they’re speaking to: that person is even less useful than someone who doesn’t vote.

  6. What common policies or core beliefs do the Liberals and NDP have that would enable them to merge? The party most like the Liberals is the Conservative party. Fiscally there is no difference between the last Liberal government and the Conservative government of today. Both are free enterprise, pro business right of centre parties. Probably more of a match than the Progressive Conservative and Reform parties were. There is some slight difference in social values but it is very minor. Canada would be better off if the two right of centre pro business parties merged and we had a choice between a right wing business oriented party and a left of centre working class oriented NDP 

    • A big NO from me!

  7. This is totally outrageous. Our government actually asked the U.S to do something harmful to us so as to promote their partisan pro-US, anti-Canadian agenda.

    The little coverage this received makes one wonder what it would take to awaken Canada’s slumbering and timid media. The CBC is obviously now too afraid of being trashed by QMI to actually report anything critical of the government, but what’s everyone else’s excuse?

  8. Maybe when we are done exercising Arctic sovereignty we can start exercising some, you know, regular sovereignty.

  9. We need copyright reform, yes. But the US laws include some ridiculous concessions to busineses and some pretty draconian punishments for the little guy (i.e. you and me). Under the last version I saw, the punishment for breaking a digital lock far exceeded that for shoplifting.

    That the CPC would pull such sleazy underhanded tricks to make their bad law seem more palatable sadly comes as no surprise. There is little at this point that Clement, in particular, could do that would surprise me. Anger me, sure, but not surprise me…

    • Why do we need copyright “reform”?

      What’s “reform”?

      • Stronger anti-piracy laws on the the one hand, to crack down on all the bootlegging, while on the other hand giving individuals who purchase an item in one format the right to transfer the contents to other formats as long as it is for personal use. For example, all us oldsters with music on vinyl, cassette or CD who want to make mp3s for our players are technically breaking the law – and the proposed law tightens rather than loosens this restriction. A purchase should create a format-free licence for personal use.

        • Why do we need stronger anti-piracy laws? What’s inadequate about the existing ones?

  10. That’s ridiculous. The US, itself, is the worst copyright country in the world. Infringing on others’ ownership of intellectual property is not the issue, but rather continually extending the length of copyright protections and preventing materials from entering the public domain. Such actions add to class separation and also limit creativity and advancement of ideas – allowing only the wealthier few to impact and reap the rewards.The original idea of copyright was to balance the time, under which, ideas were protected and profits would be made by their owners, then the protection would cease and the ideas would be returned to the public domain where anyone could use/improve them – reaping any rewards, themselves, without permission or payment to the original owners.

  11. Canada has done rather well with minority governments over the last 50 years, the voice of the people is often enforced in parliament under those conditions.
    The problem with a majority government is the people no longer have a voice, the agenda dictated to the party in power by their supporters/ handlers is then dictated to the people as well. Almost like a democratic dictatorship really.