Saturday 1 October 2011
Canada moves to modernise its copyright law
Canada's federal government has reintroduced copyright legislation into the House of Commons in an attempt to modernise the country's law, last updated in 1997. The former Liberal government introduced proposed legislation in 2005 and the Conservatives made two attempts during their minority governments in 2008 and 2010, but none passed.
The new bill is an attempt by the Canadian Government make the Country's copyright laws fit for purpose in the digital age. Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, is an exact copy of legislation tabled by the Conservatives in 2010, Bill C-32, which died when the last Canadian Parliament was dissolved.
The legislation the aims to strike a fair balance between the rights of consumers to use products they buy and those of copyright-holders who are entitled to due compensation for their creations. The law would legalize everyday consumer practices that are currently prohibited, such as using a personal video recorder to record a TV show for later viewing, or copying music from a purchased CD to an iPod. It would further allow educators, artists and satirists to break copyright under limited circumstances if the use is fair and not exploitative, and would also allow "mashups," where people transform or remix existing creative content into new works, as long as it's not for commercial purposes and doesn't have a significant adverse effect on the original rights-holders. The bill will also protect Internet intermediaries from liability for the actions of their users by providing for ‘safe harbour’ exemptions. Many Canadian commentators say that in the absence of such protections, search engines, video sites and blog hosts are vulnerable and often remove legitimate content under threat of legal action..
To some commentators a less welcome provision (and the sticking point in previous attempts to pass this bill) is the blanket ban against breaking digital locks, even for purposes of personal use. This includes "picking" a lock on a DVD purchased overseas to watch at home, or transferring a purchased protected e-book to read to another personal device. The bill provides for $5,000 fines for even the smallest such violations. Many see the provision as the end result of heavy pressure from US authorities who had placed Canada on a copyright piracy ‘watch list’ alongside Russia and China as a ‘hotbed of piracy’, and in the interest of maintaining cross-border trade and exemption from protectionist measures that would prevent Canadian firms from bidding on U.S. government procurement contracts.
Critics of the proposed legislation have said the provisions which relate to breaking a digital lock go too far and undermine the rights of users to use content for the purposes of education and fair dealing. Professor Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, called the proposed legislation “a tale of two bills.” He credits the Conservative government for attempting to strike a compromise on issues such as fair dealing and the ability to use copyrighted works for non-commercial purposes without permission to create mashups, tailoring damages under the act to create a distinction between commercial and non-commercial infringement, and addressing the role of internet providers. But, he said, the government was influenced by the United States to implement the tough digital lock provisions despite feedback from Canadians during consultations on the earlier bill saying "“[The provisions] remain unchanged and are one of the most inflexible, restrictive digital lock provisions in the world”.
The bill’s passage will also allow Canada to ratify the World Intellectual Property Organization internet treaties it signed in 1997.
Flag from http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/05/canada-still-in-copyright-hall-of-shame-according-to-the-us.ars