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September 17, 2021
The Government of Canada
Re: Consultation on a Modern Copyright Framework for Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things
The Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) welcomes the opportunity to reply to the Government’s Consultation on a Modern Copyright Framework for Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (the “Consultation”).
The CMPA is the country’s leading member-based advocacy organization for independent producers. We represent hundreds of companies engaged in the development, production, and distribution of English-language content made for television, cinema, and digital media channels.
The production sector is a key contributor to Canada’s creative economy, creating more than $2.92 billion in Canadian content production activity and 81,180 full-time equivalent jobs last year.Footnote 1 Canada's independent producers play a critical role in strengthening Canadian identity and sovereignty in the Internet age and in establishing a vibrant digital content marketplace. To fulfil that role, independent producers require a modernized Copyright Act that incentivizes them to invest in compelling Canadian content for the enjoyment of Canadians and audiences around the world. The CMPA supports the Government’s goals in this Consultation of creating jobs and growth, supporting Canada’s researchers and innovators and ensuring that Canada’s economy takes full advantage of the opportunities ahead.
Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things are Important Technological Advancements, but Require Policy Restraint
Technological advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) engage important and complex policy considerations. As noted in the Consultation, “AI and IoT are fast evolving technologies, uses of these technologies are changing, and consumers and businesses are facing new copyright-related challenges when using these complex technologies”.Footnote 2 The issues are currently being studied internationally, but there is no real consensus on a path forward amongst Canada’s trading partners.
AI and the IoT are important, but still relatively nascent, areas of technological advancement in the film and television industry. Certainly some AI applications can generate scripts or music but there is virtually no penetration of these technologies in the industry at this time. Similarly, with respect to other industries, we have seen no evidence that these technologies are creating real, practical, on-the-ground problems that would warrant any legislative change.
The Consultation identifies various issues that are currently being examined worldwide, which can be categorized as follows: 1) inputs (are exceptions required for inputs to AI?); 2) outputs (should AI output be protected by copyright, and if so, how?); and 3) the intersection between the protection afforded to technological protection measures under the Copyright Act and the IoT.
With respect, the issues raised in the Consultation – while interesting – appear to be primarily of a theoretical nature. There is no evidence that the existing copyright framework is insufficient to address these technological advancements such that legislative change is required at this time. To the contrary, the existing copyright framework appears to be robust enough to handle both the inputs and outputs of AI.
The Copyright Act is intended to be technologically neutral. Existing copyright principles should be adequate to both encourage innovation in these fields and ensure that rightsholders are properly compensated when their rights are engaged.
As an example, fair dealing for the purpose of research under section 29 of the Act is likely flexible enough to allow certain text and data mining required for certain AI uses (i.e. the “inputs”) if determined by a judge to be “fair” based on the facts. Rather than formulating a new exception that anticipates the impact of nascent and changing technology, the existing copyright framework should be sufficient to enable a court to determine whether a specific use is a fair dealing and therefore exempt from copyright infringement.
A further example of the technological neutrality in the Act is the existing definition of “maker”, which could certainly be applied to the authorship and ownership of works generated by, or with the assistance of AI (i.e. the “outputs”). However, additional clarity regarding the authorship and ownership of the outputs seems premature and unnecessary at this time. Moreover, the alternatives proposed in the Consultation could undermine existing jurisprudence and have unintended consequences in other sectors as a result. To our knowledge, there is no evidence that innovation or research in this area is being stifled because of a lack of clarity in the law around authorship and ownership of AI-generated works. We see no need for legislative change at this time.
Finally, as noted in the Consultation, the technological protection measure (TPM) protections introduced in the Copyright Act were intended to incentivize copyright owners to make their works available digitally. New (or revised) TPM exceptions for “repair” and/or “interoperability” could undermine that intention and create unintended loopholes that impair the creative industries’ ability to rely on TPMs to protect their investments in their content. Again, we have seen no evidence that such an exception is necessary and encourage the Government to carefully examine any such evidence prior to considering such an exception.
The CMPA agrees with the Government that additional evidence and consultation is necessary to inform policy decisions in this emerging area. As such, we propose that the Government take a very measured approach in its consideration of whether any legislative change is required to deal with issues on AI and the IoT at this time. Good policy requires good evidence, and enacting legislative change to deal with theoretical issues resulting from nascent technology does not make good policy.
Instead, we encourage the Government to exercise restraint in the area of AI and the IoT, keep a watching brief as these technologies develop, publish any evidence received as part of the Consultation and seek comment on policy considerations based on such evidence. We also implore the Government to prioritize areas of the copyright framework that are in immediate need of attention, including implementing term extension without termination or reversion, confirming that tariffs approved by the Copyright Board are enforceable, clarifying online intermediaries’ safe harbours and strengthening enforcement tools to combat online piracy, each as outlined in our prior submissions to the Government in this review.
We thank the Government for the opportunity to respond to the Consultation and look forward to continuing discussions in this important and developing area.
President and CEO