Canadian Government Revives Copyright Bill… Here We Go Again

The Canadian Government who tried to introduce a rather poorly thought out, highly restrictive, highly punitive, copyright revisions a couple of years ago are at it again. Industry Minister Tony Clement yesterday introduced a new version of that bill that has the following “features:”

  • Anyone convicted of bypassing the digital rights management of anything will be subject to a fine of up to $5,000. But if the circumvention of DRM is done for profit, then the fine is raised to $1 million.
  • Downloaders of copyrighted materials will face a fine of $5,000, down from the present day maximum of $20,000 that to my knowledge has never been enforced.
  • Canadians will be allowed to use copyrighted materials to create mashup videos for sites such as YouTube, and the law books will finally acknowledge that commonplace activities such as recording TV, radio and internet broadcasts are okay. The same applies for backing media for personal use or archival purposes. That is as long as you don’t screw with the digital rights management.

So it is better than their last attempt, but there are still issues with it:

Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor and an advocate for more flexible copyright law, called the bill flawed but fixable. He said it contains marked improvements over otherwise very similar legislation proposed in 2008.

Prof. Geist lauded the expansion of exceptions that allow education institutions to use copyrighted materials as well as allowances for Canadians to employ them in producing satire or parody.

But he said the legal supremacy given to digital locks is still a big drawback, adding that he worries it will encourage other copyright owners to add such encryption to products.

“It’s one thing to tell consumers we’re now legalizing some of your everyday activities like the act of making a backup copy … but to suggest those rights cease to exist the moment someone puts a digital lock on that same material, I think throws out the very balance the government was hoping to achieve,” Prof. Geist said.

So while I applaud the Canadian Government for attempting to come up with more balanced legislation, they need to go further.  Canadians shouldn’t hesitate to let their MPs know that a better balance is required.

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