Third Time the Charm? Canada Tries New Copyright Bill Again

In 2005 there was C-60, in 2008 it was C-61, and now in 2010 it's C-32. As we reported a month ago, a new Bill was about to be rammed through Canada's Parliament, and on Wednesday it was announced. It is, like its two predecessors, mostly a collection of stricter enforcement rules with an occasional benefit to consumers thrown in, almost as an afterthought.

Canada is often the odd-man-out when it comes to copyright. In many respects it goes even further than the US in providing benefits to large creative rights groups, with levies providing a substantial income for rights holders. Yet it is also routinely criticized by industry groups for ‘not being tough enough’.

Over the past few years, successive Canadian governments have tried to introduce new copyright bills which have been been repeatedly unpopular. Recently some lobbyists even accused TorrentFreak of abusing a consultation by manipulating a consultation on copyright. However, the dust has settled, and so now we have Bill C-32.

The text of the Bill is almost impenetrable, as usual – perhaps in a bid to disguise what is actually intended – but a few things are clear. This is almost everything the lobbyists wanted, and little that matched the wishes of the public. While there are provisions that are extremely pro-consumer, such as giving people the ability to format shift, it is mostly negated by restrictions placed upon it.

One of the strongest downsides to the Bill is the increased restriction on bypassing DRM. Even when a copy can be made, such as for format shifting, if it means bypassing DRM, it’s a no-no. All despite DRM being an abject failure at its intended purpose – preventing copying – it’s great at doing something else – inconveniencing legitimate customers.

“For the third time, the Canadian government has looked toward the deep pockets of the RIAA and MPAA for inspiration in dealing with copyright,” the Canadian Pirate Party told TorrentFreak. “Bill C-32 represents a gross disregard of consumers’ free will to control what they rightfully own, through banning the bypass of ‘DRM’ controls placed by big industry.”

There is also an apparent lack of indemnity associated with the Bill. Gary Fung of isoHunt shared concerns with TorrentFreak over the lack of immunity from liability when complying with the process in handling copyright notifications in the Bill. It could mean not only the end of sites like isoHunt, but also of Youtube and Facebook.

Of course, such double-standards become obvious when the very point behind the Bill is unclear. The Bill’s preamble, for instance, finishes with two contradictory paragraphs:

Whereas the Government of Canada is committed to enhancing the protection of copyright works or other subject-matter, including through the recognition of technological protection measures, in a manner that promotes culture and innovation, competition and investment in the Canadian economy;

And whereas Canada’s ability to participate in a knowledge economy driven by innovation and network connectivity is fostered by encouraging the use of digital technologies for research and education;

And there is clear evidence that the minsters behind C-32 have either not read it, or do not understand it. This is part of an email sent from the office of Tony Clement, the Minister of Industry, that was forwarded to TorrentFreak:

We are pleased to inform you that the Government of Canada has introduced legislation to modernize the Copyright Act, bringing it up to date with the advances of the digital age.

This legislation will bring Canada in line with international standards and promote homegrown innovation and creativity. It is a fair, balanced, and common-sense approach, respecting both the rights of creators and the interests of consumers in a modern marketplace.

The actual intent is made clear towards the end.

It gives creators and copyright owners the tools to protect their work and grow their business models.

In a nutshell, that’s what the Bill boils down to – protection for the copyright industries and their business models. On the positive side, perhaps the Bill will force the government to do something about the massive piracy the Canadian music industry has been undertaking for many years.

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