The Olympian Spirit, Copyright Style

While we’re all breathlessly awaiting the federal government’s long-promised revisions to the Copyright Act, interested parties may want to check out Bill C-47, the federal government’s proposed legislation to grant extra special intellectual property right protection for the Olympic movement and its related symbols.  For a summary of the legislation, check out the Library of Parliament’s legislative summary, kindly referenced by Michael Geist on his website.

On the surface, C-47 looks pretty tame and certainly doesn’t seem to live up to some of the more exaggerated demands by the Olympic movement (the proposed legislation protects, for example, legitimate criticism and news reporting involving Olympic symbols, two things that have been contested in the past. It also grandfathers in certain institutions that may already be using Olympic symoblism in one form or another) but scratch a little deeper and you’ll see this is a classic case of what we in the buz call “enabling legislation” where at least some of the “dirty” work, namely setting out a full list of verboten (protected) symbols and the extent of copyright protection (in years) will be set out in the form of regulations published in the Canada Gazette, that much-anticipated publication that no one really knows about.

In the meantime, it is instructive to remember that while the Olympic movement makes a bid deal of its “self-financing” nature (really just a claim about operating expenses matching operating revenue), the shadow of government is never far from sight both in the form of  billions of dollars of rarely-acknowledged infrastructure and in-kind spending but also, of course, in more subtle less visible forms such as intellectual property rights.

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