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


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