WikiLeaks cables: U.S. behind drive for Canadian copyright reform (who knew?)

I see that WikiLeaks has finally released the cables from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa. They’ll make for some fine reading as I prepare for my thesis defence (May 26 at Carleton University, Loeb Building A631 at 2 pm – bring your friends!). For now, you can catch up with some analysis from Geist (here (main one), here, here, here, here, and here) and Techdirt. Zeropaid also has a nice opinion piece on the whole release (h/t Russell McOrmond).

I’m happy to note that the cables, at first glance, seem to corroborate my dissertation’s argument as it relates to Canada (summarized here), so that’s good. Two things stand out to me.

First, one of my dissertation’s main points is that the United States usually can only get its way on reforming another country’s copyright policies if it offers something that the other country wants. True enough, but as the cables also suggest, a country can attempt to use the offer of copyright reform to try to get the United States to move on an issue of interest to it. In one cable, Canada says that U.S. movement on regulatory cooperation as part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) was what it wanted in exchange for Canadian copyright reform.

These two points are mostly saying the same thing, but the second emphasizes that there can be a significant amount of give and take on such policy debates, even on an issue of great importance to the larger country. Whether it works or not is another issue (the U.S. here saw Canadian attempts to link copyright to an unrelated issue as a stalling tactic. That they would comment negatively on such a linkage also suggests that linkage remains the exception, not the rule, in Canada-U.S. relations).

Second, in reading these cables and others, I’m continually struck by how open the U.S. system of government is. I’d go so far as to say that the great value in the WikiLeaks cables isn’t in what they tell us about the United States, but what they tell us about our own, very secretive government. Going far afield of copyright, the Tunisian revolution was partly sparked by revelations not about what the United States was doing in Tunisia, but about what the Tunisian government was getting up to.

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