Two Weeks Left For Canadians To Speak Out On Copyright Bill

The legislative committee for Bill C-32, the not-quite-tyrannical-but-still-potentially-disastrous copyright bill, is giving Canadians until the last day of January to voice their opinions on the matter. And so they should, as despite numerous improvements over its predecessors, the new bill still carries the same fundamental problems as always. More importantly, it doesn’t leave any way for these issues to be re-evaluated, which even American copyright law has allowed.

Bill C-32, like its predecessor Bill C-60, has been touted endlessly to be a made-in-Canada approach for copyright reform.While cable documents released by Wikileaks have all but confirmed that it has been actively influenced by and possibly even written by US lobbyists, it is nonetheless still a significant improvement over previous legislation. Since it now makes it legal to create a YouTube video using copyrighted material among other things, the improvements are substantial enough that the bill probably deserves more support than opposition.

The most glaring problem still remains though: any user rights are completely overruled if a digital lock needs to be broken in order to access the content. Fair dealing rights may have been expanded, but they are completely useless in the context of DVDs, BDs, and DRM-protected music and video files, even if the actual content being accessed is public domain. Fines for personal use have been reduced to non life-destroying levels, but the fact that individuals and organizations can not actually own content that they have paid for remains a fundamental problem. No exceptions are made for research purposes, or to make access easier for the disabled.

Unfortunately, it looks like this may be the way it will remain according to heritage minister James Moore, indicative of the fact that copyright is somehow intrinsically tied to the concept of Canadian heritage. While continuing to advocate for these changes is recommended, a more worthwhile approach may be demanding that the new law require digital lock restrictions to be re-evaulated every 2-3 years. After all, the DMCA in the United States has such a provision, which just last year led to the explicit legalization of jailbreaking devices such as iPhones. Although Bill C-32 is clearly meant to emulate the DMCA, such a provision is curiously absent as of this time.

All input should be sent to the committee’s e-mail at CC32@parl.gc.ca. More detailed information can be found on Michael Geist’s blog, specifically this recent post.

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