Review Of Canada's Copyright Bill Concludes, Digital Locks Survive
from the not-all-bad-but-not-all-good-either dept
The clause-by-clause review of Bill C-11, Canada's new copyright legislation, has concluded. Michael Geist tirelessly live-Tweeted the committee discussion, and as it progressed one thing became clear: Canada is almost certainly going to be saddled with a DMCA-style anti-circumvention law (more commonly referred to here as the "digital locks" law) that would make it illegal to bypass copy protections, even for the purposes of making a completely legal, non-infringing copy such as a personal backup of a DVD. Both the Liberals and the NDP brought forth amendments that would have fixed this by clarifying that bypassing copy protection is only illegal if it is for the purposes of making an illegal copy, but the ruling Conservative government was unwilling to budge. They also defeated an amendment that would have fixed the digital locks exception for people with disabilities—an exception which exists, but is largely toothless as currently written.
The news isn't all bad—none of the more extreme changes lobbied for by the entertainment industry were accepted, and most were not even seriously considered:
The government's decision to leave the digital lock rules untouched is unsurprising but still a disappointment, since both opposition parties were clearly persuaded that such a change was needed. On the other hand, given the heavy lobbying by many groups demanding changes to fair dealing (all parties rejected calls for a new fair dealing test or limitations on education), user generated content (there were multiple calls for its removal), statutory damages (there were calls for unlimited damages), and Internet liability (there were calls for notice-and-takedown and subscriber disclosure requirements), the government's proposed amendments [were] relatively modest.
The bill is now on its way to the House of Commons for its third reading, with some of its best elements—expanded fair dealing, no notice-and-takedown—intact, along with its worst element: the digital locks provision. Though C-11 is not law yet, it's passage is all-but-guaranteed at this point, which means we may one day see a situation in this country like that in the US, where people have faced jail time for modding an Xbox (yes, that charge was later dropped, but a citizen never should have been dragged before a judge for modifying hardware they legally own in the first place). It's still important to make your voice heard: if you want to let the government know that you don't support the indirect criminalization of legal copying accomplished by the digital locks provision, today is the day to contact your Member of Parliament. Although the Conservative majority is putting its weight behind the bill, we learned with SOPA/PIPA that copyright and internet freedoms are not a partisan issue. It may be too late to stop the digital locks provision, but it would be good to see some serious debate in the House, and send a message that Canadians recognize what has happened: the Conservative government has used its majority to foist a bad law upon us at the behest of industry powers and U.S. diplomats, over the objections and best interests of the citizens it is supposed to serve.