Jason Crocker: Canadians must not remain silent on copyright reform bill
Earlier this year the Canadian government took an important step toward the modernization of Canada’s copyright regime by introducing Bill C-32. Although the proposed legislation is more flexible than previous attempts at copyright reform, the bill is flawed at its core by the inclusion of strict anti-circumvention provisions. It is precisely this broad protection for digital locks that voids consumer rights, stifles potential innovation, and unfairly tips the balance of Canadian copyright law that should have Canadians concerned.
Under Bill C-32, everyday consumer activities such as making a backup copy of digital media, unlocking a cellphone, and using a PVR to record a television show would be explicitly permitted. Permitted and accepted only if a digital lock is not circumvented in the process. Imagine you purchased a DVD movie and you wanted to transfer it to your Apple iPad to watch on your flight to Ottawa next week. Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? However, the reality is that under Bill C-32 transferring the DVD you legally own to another device for later viewing would be illegal, as every commercially available DVD employs a digital lock. This is just one example of many consumer activities that, under Bill C-32, would expose Canadians to penalties of up to $5,000.
In the summer of 2009, the government of Canada held public consultations on copyright and Canadians engaged in these consultations at an unprecedented level. However, contrary to the substance of Bill C-32, Canadians overwhelmingly opposed the inclusion of strict protection for digital locks. In fact, of the 8,306 submissions to the consultations, nearly 80 percent (6,641 submissions) urged the government to limit the protection for digital locks and DRM while only 0.05 percent (46 submissions) of the total submissions supported broad protection for digital locks and DRM. Clearly the proposed legislation does not strike its intended balance nor represent the will of Canadians as long as the anti-circumvention provisions exist in their current form.
A more effective approach to the anti-circumvention provisions that inevitably seem to criminalize consumer activities and expose citizens to severe statutory penalties would be to link the act of circumvention to infringement. This approach not only meets our international obligations but it integrates a greater deal of flexibility into Canada’s copyright regime, allowing it to adapt easily to emerging forms of technology and modes of business. Such an approach would prevent consumer activities from being criminalized if the underlying purpose is not infringement, all the while ensuring that creators are fairly compensated for their work and thusly providing incentives for future innovation.
Bill C-32 is now set to make its way through the parliamentary process and be referred to a committee where it will be reviewed line by line and where hopefully the public can be heard from in a fair and representative way. Industry Minister Tony Clement has made statements in the media indicating there exists an openness to amending Bill C-32 to ensure balance for all stakeholders including Canadian consumers and these committee hearings are the venue.
If Canadians remain silent there is a real possibility that Bill C-32 will become the law of the land in its current flawed form, which would undermine the reasonable rights of all Canadians with its draconian protection for digital locks. However, if Canadians take the time to engage themselves in this important issue and speak out, Bill C-32 can be fixed, thus achieving a proper balance in Canada’s copyright regime, established in a responsible and sovereign manner.
Jason Crocker is the chair of the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights.
Oct 2, 2010 at 10:25am
Interesting article, looks like this bill stinks, but then again I would expect nothing less from this Government. I'll take my chances with an election before these sucker is on the books, phew!
Oct 2, 2010 at 10:37am
now I'm all for musicians getting paid for performances ( especially since I am one) but not by suing my fans. I've tallked to my MP on Canada day about this one, guess I better call him again.
Oct 2, 2010 at 10:50am
In this volatile political climate the future of this Bill is anyone's guess. That said I agree 100% that Bill C-32 is flawed at its core by its protection for digital locks. It will be interesting to see which committee the Bill will be referred to and how accommodating that committee will be when it comes to hearing from everyday Canadians over corporations and lobby groups. I have my doubts that access will be fair seeing as the feedback of these Canadians obtained during the consultation process has already been blatantly ignored.
Oct 4, 2010 at 7:18am
Good to see this article. Agree that the Bill needs to some work in committee but from a creator and creative business perspective, Canada needs this bill. We are falling behind internationally.
Oct 4, 2010 at 7:37am
I'm so frustrated by the continual harping on the "dangers" of TPMs to the consumer. Nothing in this proposed bill REQUIRES that creators implement TPMs. The law is only proposing that they should be protected IF they are used. It's the exact same thing as laws against break and enter, which frankly, I'm glad exist. Here's the UPSIDE of robust copyright law - protection for creators means more jobs, more innovation, and more choices for consumers! Unfettered piracy of creative works CANNOT continue in Canada, and this bill is a good start.
Oct 4, 2010 at 7:46am
Perhaps Bill C-32 has some flaws, but an update to the copyright law in Canada is a MUST to keep up with the times.
Oct 4, 2010 at 7:59am
We need copyright reform which will bring us into the digital age. Bill C-32 isn't perfect but it is a step in the right direction
Oct 4, 2010 at 8:43am
That the proposed Bill C32 has provoked so much discussion around Copyright is very encouraging. It should be pointed out that there is nothing in the new Bill that prohibits creator or publishers from releasing TPM free products. Many new release DVDs and Blu Rays are now coming with a digital copy that can infact beused to back up your purchase while loading it on to your device of choice.
While C32 is not perfrect, it's inadequacies neeed to be addressed in committee it is a very good starting point to bring copyright law up to date to provide both protection and choice to creators and copyright owners.
Geoff Knoth - Nanaimo BC
Oct 4, 2010 at 12:07pm
I have been watching this debate closely right from Bill C-60 up to the now Bill C-32. It seems James Moore is hell-bent on getting this flawed legislation through the house. He's even gone as far as calling any opposers to the bill as radical extremists, including Charlie Angus, Justin Trudeau and Michael Geist:
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I do agree our Copyright laws needs some fixing in order to shake our reputation on the world stage, but shifting all the power to the distributors and rights holders is not the answer either. Call me an optimist but I think this bill will be righted before it is law. Thank goodness for a minority government!. I really hope we don't see the music distributors suing fans of the music. That's just not good business for anyone involved.
Oct 4, 2010 at 12:50pm
Looks like the marching orders have gone out to the industry-types. In the spirit of full disclosure and astroturfing:
@don_hogarth is the communication / PR guy for CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association). CRIA is to the puppet as the RIAA is to the arm. No surprise that he has his back up over someone criticizing C-32...he's paid to.
@victoria_shepard is from the AVLA (Audio Video Licensing Agency) where she is the Program Administrator. The AVLA is operated by...wait for it...CRIA.
@steve_kane is not only consistently quick to comment but the president of Warner Music Canada with the same interests as CRIA when it comes to Canadian copyright reform. Hi Steve.