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Friday, June 13, 2008

bill c-61 and fair copyright for canada.

With Industry Minister Jim Prentice's introduction of Bill C-61: An Act to Amend the Copyright Act into the House of Commons this week, I am glad to see that strong opposition to legislation (which is similar to the United States Millennium Digital Copyright Act) is coalescing across Canada.

Not only does Bill C-61 seem to side with industry lobbyists over consumer protection rights, but it also poses a very real threat that could leave Canada with one of the most restrictive digital copyright laws in the world - posing a strong challenge for innovation, consumer rights, and free speech.

It has been suggested that this type of legislation would allow border guards and law enforcement officials to inspect laptops and iPods for music and videos that may violate copyright laws (which could even include the simple and very common transfer of DVDs to an iPod) and instituting stiff penalties, C-61 also poses a number of challenges to the education sector (which should raise red flags for University Presidents and Provincial Education Ministers across Canada).

The proposed legislation would limit the ability of post-secondary students and institutions to access copyrighted material for studies - including highly popular online exam banks and journal/periodical databases/e-braries that many post-secondary students use on a daily basis (the proposed legislation would limit the distribution of electronic library materials to less than five days) and could see an increase in copyright fees for institutions. I was glad to see that the Canadian Federation of Students has publicly raised questions about Bill C-61 and I hope that Canada's other national student lobby group - the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations - won't be too far behind in taking public action on this important issue.

I encourage you to read up on why this issue is important to Canadians. Check out Michael Geist, Digital Copyright Canada, Fair Copyright for Canada (and on Facebook), and Online Rights Canada to get up to speed. There’s a lot of good and accessible information online, so make sure to give it a read.

I’ve written a letter on the issue to my MP Rahim Jaffer, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Jim Prentice, Heritage Minister Josée Verner, and Industry Committee Chair James Rajotte. If you're not a fan of letter writing use a sample letter, or check out Geist's solid list of actions that any Canadian can take to raise their concerns about Bill C-61 and copyright issues.

Positive copyright reform is possible, but Bill C-61 does not include the ingredients of positive change that would recognize the growing role of the Internet and open source software, as well as emerging online tools and business models that Canadian are embracing.


Anonymous said...

At least I'm never, ever going to the goddam States again.

Anonymous said...

"As well as allowing border guards and law enforcement officials to inspect laptops and iPods for music and videos that may violate copyright laws"

As far as I know, C-61 doesn't include anything about border searches. You might be thinking about the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

Anonymous said...

Daveberta, what exactly are your concerns... You haven't really referenced anything concrete in the post. Buzz words are fine, but it is a long shot to call a bill that protects artists and writers an attack on free speech.

A said...

My biggest problem with the bill is the 5 day lending limit on digital media. Though I haven't read the fine print, the surface meaning of that clause will absolutely destroy the ability of major libraries to digitize their collections - and since many have already done so (and keep lengthy digital archives) the costs to the information that the public can access through these collections would be extreme. As a recent university graduate, I also find 5 days to be a ridiculously small borrowing time - though I get that the permanent downloading of materials is problematic, I have needed some of the readings I've downloaded for as long as 3 weeks.
The ambiguity around the $500 fine per infringement is also worrisome. Does that mean that I could be fined $500 for every single .pdf I've ever downloaded from the University library now? How about if I get caught with CDs that I own on my iPod (but can't produce the CD on site)? What if I back up downloaded content that I purchased on CD/DVD? The answers to these questions all seem to be speculative - which is really problematic, given that the answer could be "that's illegal and therefore a fine-able offense" on all counts.

One of the stickier issues in the area of digital legislation is personal privacy. C-61 seems to err on the side of prosecutability in terms of its attitude towards personal privacy regarding internet activity (its provisions regarding Internet providers' obligations to subpoena customers suspected of illegal downloads mirror a 2004 request from the Canadian Recording Industry Association more than I'm comfortable with).

Last for now, I don't think that the unique concerns of the education sector have been adequately addressed in this bill. I don't see any specific provisions detailing how educational licensing (such as multiple uses of copyrighted or instructional materials by units like public school boards) are to be affected (if in fact they are), which means that I'm left to assume that the 1997 exceptions would still be in play (and those, as far as I understand, are what resulted in the convoluted and as of yet still not satisfactorily regulated mess we face today).

Most of the language of the bill, in fact, seems to be geared towards responsibilities held by "the individual" without mention of equivalent or commensurate responsibilities held by organizations.

While I agree that Canada very badly needs to update its copyright legislation, I think that C-61 poses more problems than solutions.

And I definitely agree that CASA needs to hurry up with a statement. Last I heard, they claimed to be right on top of this copyright/academic materials quagmire and were, as their Executive Director puts it, very well equipped to provide a federal voice on these issues. Now would be a good time to get talking.

Anonymous said...

CASA staying quiet on an important issue? Big surprise.

Anonymous said...

a. The problem is how rigid the legislation is. As a libertarian I find it offensive that a “Conservative” government would sponsor the type of legislation that would allow fines to be given for the personal distribution of personal property. That I would not be able to copy a CD or video on to my iPod without facing criminal charges is ludicrous. Software like iTunes exists so that an individual can load their personal music collection on to their iPod. The idea that I would have to do away with my CD collection in order to purchase duplicate copies of my very own music collection in order to “legally” load it onto my iPod is ridiculous. This legislation is not realistic and was clearly not written by anyone who understands how 21st century technology works. It is embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

"C-61: PVRs built in compliance with the bill are not allowed to keep a permanent library of your shows. They will be built with a limited amount of storage and with no backup capability, and just to be safe, all shows recorded on a PVR will be deleted if they are kept for longer than a pre-specified amount of time."

This applies to everything , not just movies and music. All news programs documentaries public information will be automatically deleted from your PVR after a specified time.

We will be totally news-managed with no memory of the past and it will be illegal to cross check to news with other people.

Everything will be deleted.
There will be no past.
There will only be Oceania Forever.