Canada, one of the shining lights in the copyright and intellectual property world, has a shadow approaching that may dim that for all. The name of that shadow? Bill c-61, which was formally introduced by Industry minister Jim Prentice an hour or two ago. One of the ‘highlights’ is the abolition of court’s flexibility in statutory damages, fixing it at $500 (CAD)
The bill, dubbed the ‘Canadian DMCA’ has not been popular with many of those it will effect. Over 40,000 have joined a facebook group, run by Michael Geist opposing it. Geist, a law professor at University of Ottawa, has been fighting to oppose these laws for some time now. On the tabling of the bill, he writes “The government plans for second reading at the next sitting of the house, effectively removing the ability to send it to committee after first reading (and therefore be more open to change)”
The bill is controversial in many ways. Whilst supporters of the bill will point to the allowances for time shifting, format shifting, and the ability to ‘private copy’ (moving a song from CD to an mp3 player for instance). It will, however, prevent that activity, though criminalization, if there is any sort of technological restriction on it. Anti-copy flags on TV shows, DRM on music, or rootkits on CDs would mean that any attempt to make a fair use, would be subject to prosecution and heavy fines.
Perhaps even more important, uploaders, and to an extent, downloaders too (certainly those on torrents), will now be liable. While in the past, the RMCP has stated it won’t pursue uploaders, with new laws come changes in policy for those that enforce the laws. Bill C-61 contains a statutory damage amount of $500.
(1.If a copyright owner has made an election under subsection (1), a defendant who is an individual is liable for statutory damages of $500 in respect of all the defendant’s infringements that were done for the defendant’s private purposes and that are involved in the proceedings.
This is a change from the previous wording, which gave the court latitude to drop that $500 to as low as $200.
Scene members, and torrent sites will also find themselves under increasing pressure. Despite claims that most torrent sites are not commercial, it’s not stopped industry associations from claiming they are, in order to get law enforcement action against them. From the act,
Circumvention of technological measure
(3.1) Every person, except a person who is acting on behalf of a library, archive or museum or an educational institution, is guilty of an offence who knowingly and for commercial purposes contravenes section 41.1 and is liable
(a) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding $1,000,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both; or
(b) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding $25,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.
Although DRM has seen a decline in recent times, laws like this can only give content distributors incentive to bring them back, at least in Canada.