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6/20/2005

Caving on Copyright

Bill C-60 (PDF) which amends the Copyright Act was introduced in Parliament today. Law Professor Michael Geist comments:

Further, there is the notice and notice system, which obligates ISPs to send a notice if there is a claim of copyright infringement and retain "records that will allow the identity of the person to whom the electronic location belongs to be determined" but they are permitted to charge for the service (the government will set the maximum fee). ISPs that fail to abide by these provisions face only statutory damages of either $5,000 or $10,000.

Anyone who has followed copyright reform history will not be surprised to learn that individual Canadians are the big losers today. Although the bill could have been worse (the U.S. version of the law is even more user-unfriendly) and there are some provisions that permit the use of digital works in an electronic and teaching environment (filled with all sorts of limitations) that is cold comfort to millions of Canadians who find themselves with a bill that does virtually nothing to address their concerns.
michael geist
The good news is that the right of private copying remains. Which means downloading would still be legal; but there are severe restrictions on what you can do with a private copy.
There are also some new limitations on what can be done with copies made under the private copying system. In particular, it becomes an infringement to knowingly sell, rent, trade, distribute or communicate copies made for private use under Section 80(1)
micheal geist
In effect the amendments to the act, which are contained at section 15 of C-60 will make any form of sharing of a private copy an infringement. The amended section 2.1(c)is particularly broad:
to communicate it by telecommunication to the public or to one or more persons in particular
C-60
There is every possibility that this could mean that a person sharing a song from a friend's hard drive will amount to an infringement on the basis of this amendment. It will certainly be an infringement if you email an MP3 or give your friend - or yourself - access to a song via the internet.

No one is terribly surprised that the Liberals have decided to adopt this restrictive set of rules. The American record industry has hated the Canada hole from the day Mr. Justice von Finckenstein of the Federal Court confirmed that our copyright law was substantially different from American and WTO copyright norms because we had the media levy. Nothing in C-60 eliminates the media levy; rather it simply restricts the rights of Canadians to share their private copies.

At one level I am unconcerned simply because the advent of Bit Torrents and the ongoing drive towards networked peer to peer sharing means that enforcement of even this draconian law will be impossible.

However, what the Liberals have done is eliminated the possibility that Canada might evolve a copyright regime which balanced the rights of the users against the rights of the artists. There is no balance or even any hint of a balance in C-60. Once again the Liberals have collapsed in the face of special interests.

This is bad, uncreative and profoundly conservative law. It needs to be opposed and defeated.

As we do not have any serious Opposition in Canada it will be up to music users and the people who support the artists who make Canaidan and world music to work for the defeat of this cave in to corporate music and the destruction of Canadians' basic right to internet privacy.

Update: Any doubt that you may have that this set of ammendemnts is a complete cave in to the record companies at the expense of both users and artists will be put to rest by reading the FAQs put up by the Ministers responsible Read it here (PDF - because it would not do for this to get all over the net.) (Not a word about the media levy I might add.)