Jim Prentice, Minister of 8-Tracks [politics]

“A ferocious debate between NDP Member of Parliament Charlie Angus and Tory Minister of Industry Jim Prentice. At issue was Canada’s new copyright law, Bill C61, the Canadian DMCA.”

In my last post on Canadian copyright I discussed the digital lock (DRM) provisions of this proposed copyright bill. The bill appears to give Canadians certain personal copying rights, but all of these rights are revoked if the media you wish to copy includes a digital lock. (For example, all DVDs include digital locks.)

In the video clip, “Angus asks the Minister why he is granting legal protection to DRM (Digital Locks), even when that DRM overrules the copyright freedoms being guaranteed under the bill. The Minister refused to answer the question — he just kept shouting that his law allows for backups and format-shifting, refusing to say anything about how the DRM rules make all those rights moot.”

The “Minister of 8-tracks” barb stems from the fact that the personal copying provisions in the bill would have been very welcome in the 70s and 80s, before digital locks were invented.

(Quotes via BoingBoing)

* * *

Canadian law professor Michael Geist has been blogging a series of possible scenarios where Bill 61 would make criminals of average Canadian citizens:

Copyfight in Canada Redux [politics]

The copyright amendment bill C-61 tabled yesterday by Industry Minister Jim Prentice is worse for Canadians than expected.

Personal Use and Fair Dealing

On the surface it appears to contain a number of provisions for personal use and fair dealing. It seems to allow for “time shifting” (recording a tv show to watch later), “format shifting” (copying media from analogue to digital format), and private copying of music (copying from a cd to a mp3 player). However, all of these rights disappear if the media in question contains digital locks.

Digital Locks

Digital locks (often referred to as DRM) are already in place on all DVDs and are in wide-spread use on digital music files, Ebooks, CDs and digital television broadcasts. Not only would these digital lock provisions allow corporations to revoke our personal-use rights, they would also revoke our right to copy for the purposes of research, private study, criticism, and news reporting.

The bill’s “anti-circumvention provisions” would criminalize any attempt to circumvent digital locks. Although exceptions have been made for privacy, people with sight and hearing disabilities, and security, these exceptions are worthless since the tools needs to pick the digital locks would be banned. Creation of new tools to pick digital locks would also be against the law.

Digital locks are also used to cripple the functionality of cellphones and other electronic devices. For me, this hits close to home. I teach a mobile programming course at Red River College. Because of the locks in place on the majority of cellphones, my students are unable to test their programming creations on real phones. Some students have figured out how to circumvent the locks on their phones in order to run their programs. This bill would make them criminals.

Educational and Library Exceptions

The bill’s exceptions for libraries and educational use are laughable.

All educational exceptions are revoked for digitally locked media. Copying and pasting from a locked Ebook for a book report would therefore be a criminal act. Also, any internet or video-based lectures that contained copyrighted material (covered under the educational exceptions) would have to be destroyed at the end of the school year. The forced re-development of course material will put unnecessary strains on an education system that is increasingly reliant on internet and video course delivery.

The exceptions for libraries are equally restrictive. Any digital media lent out by a library would have to ‘self-destruct/erase’ within 5 days. Librarians would also have to police the use and further distribution of this media. Not only are these requirement a technical and financial burden on libraries, they also stand in opposition to a library’s function as a hub for the sharing and distribution of knowledge.

Laissez-Fair Enforcement

What is even more ridiculous is that the conservative government has now gone on the record saying they likely won’t enforce much of the copyright legislation. Instead they would encourage corporations to enforce the regulations through litigation. For example, parents of children who share music online could be sued for up to $20,000 per song. This type of copyright litigation is already widely practiced in the U.S.

Speaking of which, Canada is also facing U.S. pressure to sign on to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) at the G8 submit this fall. Under this agreement the policing of the new copyright act would include border guards searching iPods and laptops for infringing media, and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) spying on the internet activities of their customers.

Senseless Reforms

The act of copying copyrighted media in Canada is already illegal, there is little sense in making it more illegal. There is little sense in promoting widespread American-style copyright enforcement through litigation. There is little sense in making provisions for personal use and fair-dealings, only to have corporations decide if Canadians can make use of these rights. And there is little sense in tabling copyright amendments that go against several Supreme Court decisions on the role of copyright in Canada (see below).

For information on how to stop these proposed amendments read Michael Geist’s The Canadian DMCA: A Betrayal.

More Information

The Canadian Supreme Court on Copyright

The Supreme Court declared in Theberge v. Galerie d’Art du Petit Champlain (2002):

“Excessive control by holders of copyrights and other forms of intellectual property may unduly limit the ability of the public domain to incorporate and embellish creative innovation in the long-term interests of society as a whole, or create practical obstacles to proper utilization.”

The court also noted:

“Once an authorized copy of a work is sold to a member of the public, it is generally for the purchaser, not the author, to determine what happens to it.”

In 2004, in CCH v. Law Society of Upper Canada, the Supreme Court was even more explicit about the importance of users’ rights.

Copyfight in Canada [politics]

Our conservative federal government is set to table their proposed amendments to the Copyright Act tomorrow (June 12).

The National Post has reported that the act may include the following provisions:

  • Making it illegal to unlock the full potential of cellphones you own.
  • Making it illegal to copy music you have purchased from protected CDs to your mp3 player.
  • Forbidding the right to “time shift” tv shows onto personal video recorders if flagged by broadcasters.

When used in the context of copyright “time shift” is a fancy way of saying “record a show in order to watch it later”. So it may soon be illegal to record your favourite TV show.

There may also be a $500 fine for each illegal file shared online.

These amendments are a direct result of US political pressure led by the lobbyists for the major US media corporations. In bowing to this pressure our conservative government shows once again that they neither understand nor care about our culture or our rights.

All works of art and technology build on previous works. Locking down our culture along with our digital tools is a grievous error. Each and every year it gets easier to copy information. It is what humans do, we propagate information, we copy, we share, we appropriate, we imitate, we innovate, we remix, we collaborate.

More information:

Previously on StungEye:

“Good artists copy; great artists steal.” —Pablo Picasso ;)

Net Neutrality and Copyfight [politics]

Sam’s post on Property and Privacy has got me thinking about copyright and privacy again. This prompted me to write two letters to my MP Anita Neville today.

The first letter dealt with Canada’s involvement with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) as reported on May 24th in the Winnipeg Free Press.

More on the ACTA:

In my second letter I ask Mrs. Neville to support the Net Neutrality private member’s bill (C-552) introduced by NDP MP Charlie Angus.

More on Net Neutrality in Canada:

Previously on StungEye:

We Do Count [politics]

An update to my previous post on the impending Canadian DMCA:

“The government last week filed a notice indicating the bill would be introduced this week, leading industry experts to expect it to happen on Tuesday. But a spokesperson for Industry Minister Jim Prentice, who was to introduce the bill, said it would not happen on Tuesday and could not say if it would happen this week.” - Copyright reform bill critics eye victory @ CBC

Sources say the minister had no idea that this would be such a big deal for Canadians.

It’s easy to feel that as an individual voter we wield little political power; however, this minor victory shows that we still have power in numbers. The Facebook Fair Copyright group started by Michael Geist, the Canada research chair of internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, will likely reach 13 thousand members today.

I would still urge you to write, fax or call Mr. Prentice if you’re concerned about fair copyright reform in Canada. See: Example Letters

Jim Prentice Constituency Office
Suite 105
1318 Centre St NE
Calgary, Alberta T2E 2R7

403 216-7777
Fax 403 230-4368

[email protected]

If you feel passionate about copyright reform there is much more you can do.

If you’re interested, here are Jack Layton’s views on copyright reform.

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