Microsoft Canada Slapped Over Copyright Op-Ed

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 by Mistlee

Microsoft Canada Slapped Over Copyright

By David A. Utter

Law professor smacks down argument

Noted Internet law expert Michael Geist criticized an opinion piece appearing in a Canadian newspaper as "astonishingly misleading and factually incorrect."
Someone exhibited poor judgment at Microsoft Canada in leaving the company open to criticism with an op-ed article that Geist dismantled in review. Michael Eisen, chief legal officer for Microsoft Canada, wrote that controversial missive, which appeared in The Hill Times.

Eisen wrote in support of copyright legislation being considered for passage in Canada. He complained that Canada "is woefully out of step" with trading partners and the international community regarding copyright law.

He then makes some claims about possible damaging scenarios that could take place without adopting these reforms. Geist took Eisen's examples and showed the flaws in those positions:

The most egregious error comes in the following paragraph which attempts to demonstrate why Microsoft thinks reform is needed:

Imagine you're an aspiring author who decides to self-publish on the internet in hopes of supporting yourself and catching the eye of a publishing house. Now imagine someone hacks into your website and accesses your work and begins using the ideas expressed in your work for their own commercial benefit. You should be protected, right? In Canada, you are not.

Actually, you are protected.

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Geist then noted how Microsoft benefited in February 2007 from copyright protections:

Copyright law would clearly protect an author whose work was used without permission for commercial benefit. In fact, the infringer would face the prospect of significant statutory damages. But don't take my word for it. One year ago (almost to the day), Microsoft issued a press release trumpeting a win at the Federal Court that led to one of the highest statutory damages awards in Canadian copyright history - $500,000 in statutory damages and an additional $200,000 in punitive damages.

Microsoft wants US-style legislation for copyright to be the norm in Canada. Geist argued that the reforms sought by the company would stamp out current exceptions to Canada's Copyright Act, exceptions that permit use of content for research, study, and other specific cases.

With Microsoft facing an extended period of antitrust oversight in the US, investigations by the EU over web browser competition, and the likelihood of FTC and EU antitrust reviews if Yahoo accepts Microsoft's takeover bid, this may not be the best time to make shaky arguments in favor of potentially onerous copyright laws.

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