Back to Brains Trust
An Act to amend the Copyright Act and to amend other Acts in consequence thereof
Sponsor: Hon. Richard Doyle (ON)
Downloads: Click here
Prior to the introduction of Bill C-60 in 1987, copyright laws in Canada had not changed since 1924. Bill C-60 sought to provide much needed reform; it extended the protection afforded to architectural and artistic works and increased the legislation’s scope to protect new creations which were not included in the 1924 Copyright Act, such as computer programming. The bill also established an alternate method for creators to negotiate royalties and recognized “moral rights” in work, protecting them from distortion, mutilation or modification which prejudices the honour and reputation of the creator.
Bill C-60 was introduced in the Senate on February 4, 1987. The bill was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, which heard testimony and received briefs from many of the artistic community’s organizations and interest groups, as well as from the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Library Association. Based on these hearings, the committee proposed several amendments to the bill. The amendments, adopted by the Senate on May 3, 1988, included deleting the new exhibition right which allowed artists to be compensated when their works were shown, and delaying the coming into force of the Copyright Board’s powers to control collectives by one year.
The House of Commons disagreed with both amendments.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, groups representing school boards and teachers, librarians and museums had supported the Senate’s amendments, while groups representing artists had objected to them. Senator Lorna Marsden (ON) posed the dilemma facing the Senate by saying "… the relationship between creators and users is a symbiotic relationship. In other words, one does not exist without the other. It is the role and duty of Parliament, and of the Senate, to ensure that there is a balance as between the demands made on both sides, and, furthermore, that there is an orderly process." (Debates, page 3267). The Senate therefore approved several amendments thought to achieve a better balance than achieved in the House of Commons.
Ultimately, however, the Senate did not insist on its amendments. Instead it secured a commitment from the Hon. Flora MacDonald, Minister of Communications, that a second bill be brought forward to insert definitions and exemptions in Bill C-60 once further consultations with interested parties had been conducted,. The bill received Royal Assent on June 8, 1988.
As is often the case, the Senate was criticized for amending a government bill even though it deferred to the House of Commons in the end. One columnist took a different view. The Senate, he wrote, was "doing what it is supposed to do: take a sober second look at a very complex issue.”