Politics - Federal

Canadian Copyright Reform: Last Chance to Speak Up

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 18, 2011

As always, the mighty Michael Geist has the lowdown on the latest twists in Bill C-32, the Conservative Government's attempt to ram American-style copyright reform down Canada's throat.

After a year of broad-based consultation, the Government abandoned all that inconvenient public feedback and unilaterally introduced an industry-friendly bill which, among its measures, makes it a criminal offence to circumvent a digital lock for any reason.

This provision is called anti-circumvention because it makes prohibits customers from circumventing 'digital locks' on the content they purchased.

The bill's apologists point out that the bill makes exceptions for fair personal use, educational use by teachers, and so on, but the anti-circumvention provision trumps these protections and renders them toothless. All a company has to do is install some kind of digital lock and it becomes a criminal offence to break that lock.

Geist argues that an opportunity still exists to push the Government into a compromise that actually respects users' rights with respect to copyright:

Given the current minority government, it has always been clear that compromise with at least one opposition party will be needed to pass Bill C-32. With Bloc MPs circulating petitions opposed to the bill, the Liberals and NDP are the obvious hopes for finding a solution.

Copyright reform must provide legal means for Canadians to circumvent digital locks for legitimate reasons. It should not be illegal for me to break a digital lock on a device that I own for legal purposes - any more than it should be illegal for me to "break into" my car to perform an oil change.

Why on earth are we stubbornly refusing to learn from the bitter experience of American anti-circumvention law since the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

It's no coincidence that the US Copyright Office recently ruled it is not illegal to jailbreak an iPhone by circumventing Apple's digital locks. After 12 years, the US is backpedaling away from anti-circumvention just as Canada prepares to rush headlong into it.

It's simply not good enough, as Heritage Minister James Moore has argued, to "trust the market" or to "trust consumers to purchase products they want and creators to follow".

There's nothing free-market about a law that enables state intervention to criminalize fair personal use of a product that a corporation decides to saddle with DRM. It gives businesses the power to lock their customers out of their own devices and provides a perverse incentive for industry collusion and superficial DRM-for-its-own sake.

Take a few minutes to read Geist's excellent overview of the issue, and then tell the Government what you think:

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By hammy (anonymous) | Posted January 18, 2011 at 21:47:35

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By z jones (registered) | Posted January 18, 2011 at 22:04:19

Christ almighty, it's like Allan "turbo" Taylor called all 2 of his friends and told them he'd buy them a case of beer if they spent a few days trolling the site that banned him for being an asshole. Seriously, get a life.

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By hammy (anonymous) | Posted January 19, 2011 at 00:06:40

Funny, you guys don't have any problem trolling other sites spreading the WH/RTH gospel. No one is sensoring your comments on these sites so I ask whats the problem?? Someone can't have a difference of opinion on the RTH?

Comment edited by hammy on 2011-01-19 00:07:00

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted January 19, 2011 at 00:28:39

@hammy - how the hell can an excellent article on changes to copyright, changes that will impact every Canadian, be "sticking its head where it doesn't belong"?

Bring a valid point or go back to trolling the spec.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 19, 2011 at 11:53:09

It's interesting how far the logic of "property laws" can be taken inside other people's homes, bodies and hard drives.

The iPhone jailbreak is the perfect example - even the iTouch has had the capacity to function as a "free cell phone" since the beginning. They locked out those functions so their telecom buddies could make more money. This does nothing to protect consumers, only Apple, Rogers, and the app-development empire. Customers who bypass these locks aren't stealing anything, just finding a way to use hardware they paid for to new things.

These laws encourage innovation like a big wet blanket encourages a struggling campfire.

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