A Postgame On Canada's Copyright Reform
from the mixed-bag dept
On Monday, after multiple attempts over several years, Canada's House of Commons passed Bill C-11 (previously known by other names), a sweeping copyright reform bill. Senate approval is all but assured, and the bill is essentially certain to become law in the near future. Luckily, unlike SOPA/PIPA in the States, C-11 is not a ridiculous, draconian internet lockdown bill. In fact, there's a lot to celebrate in the bill, though that celebration is marred by one significant problem: the digital locks portion, which is similar to the DMCA's anti-circumvention rules.
But first, the good stuff. Michael Geist has an excellent summary of C-11 with a comparison to previous phases of copyright law in Canada. The victories for smarter copyright law in C-11 sound almost like fantasy when compared to the American copyright debate. They include:
- New fair dealing provisions (our version of fair use) to cover educational uses, plus parody and satire
- New backup, format-shifting and time-shifting allowances that remove previous restrictions on networked DVRs and internet TV services (similar to those that have suffered in American courts)
- Explicit copyright exceptions for "user-generated content", aimed at protecting non-commercial fan-art and remixes
- A bunch of explicit exceptions for schools, such as the right to stage public performances
- A notice-and-notice system, not a notice-and-takedown system
- A $5,000 cap on statutory damages for all non-commercial infringement
Many of these are, as Geist calls them, "user-focused reforms"—something conspicuously absent from most proposed copyright legislation these days. But the digital locks issue remains a black mark on C-11, as the concerns of groups representing consumers, the blind and visually impaired (who will have a tougher time accessing digital content now), and Canadians in general were all brushed aside in favor of a DMCA-style approach that makes it illegal to circumvent copy protection systems even if it's for the purposes of making a legal copy. This, unfortunately, weakens the impact of all the positive reforms in the bill, because it creates a glaring loophole whereby rightsholders can attempt to block copying even if it's for one of the newly defined legal reasons. It's a real shame, and it also represents a foot-in-the-door for those who want more DMCA-style laws in Canada.
Still, it hardly erases the fact that there's a lot to like in C-11. User rights got more attention and more serious consideration in this bill than they ever did in SOPA/PIPA. Given that American diplomats were (and still are) actively pushing for Canadian versions of the DMCA and SOPA (or even more draconian laws that they can then import back to the U.S.), we came out of this one pretty well.