Copyright reform may not seem like the sexiest of issues, but it has caught the attention of Canadians and launched itself to the front of the political agenda. The membership of Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group surged recently and now has over 80,000 members.
The support is really astonishing in Canada. Copyright reforms have been going on throughout the world as countries try to meet international agreements. However, nowhere has the issue generated as much support as it has Canada. In Switzerland, for example, the issue seemed to receive little mainstream attention. The site No Swiss DCMA attempted to collect 50,000 signatures to force a referendum on the revision of the copyright act. They managed to get 803.
One reason for the widespread support seems to be that the proposed changes in the recently tabled Bill C-61 will impact every single Canadian. One group of people which will be particularly affected is students. From distance education to music copying, if passed, this law would make thousands copyright infringers.
Bill C-61 protesters questioned Jim Prentice at his Calgary Stampede breakfast. Photo: k-ideas @ Flickr
To market the bill, Industry Minister Jim Prentice has dubbed it the “made in Canada” bill (as opposed to “imported from the US DCMA” bill) and is highlighting the new provisions that most Canadians probably think are already law. The current Copyright Act:
- “does not specifically allow you to make a copy of a book, newspaper, periodical, photograph or videocassette in order to enjoy it on another device. It also does not specifically allow you to copy music onto devices such as computers and digital audio recorders.”
- “does not specifically allow you to record a radio or television program.”
Using your VCR may finally be “specifically allowed”! These new provisions sound great and are long overdue, but they are completely watered down by a host of limitations. Basically, anything that is digitally protected cannot be copied.
Thankfully DRM-locked music seems to be on the way out. iTunes only offers EMI music DRM-free, but Amazon, 7digital and Rhapsody are all going DRM-free. (The decision is mainly up to the record companies and they seem to be trying to knock iTunes down a few notches by helping out its competitors.)
As for DVDs, copying one you own to watch on your iPod would be illegal. After all, it’s an infringement to try and circumvent digital locks even if your purpose is private use. If you want a copy, you’ll have to buy it in a different format.
The time shifting provisions looks good as it even allows you, for instance, to PVR an on-demand program. But then the limitations kick in: “If you entered into a contract with your service provider expressly prohibiting or limiting your ability to make recordings of on-demand programs, you would have to honour the terms of that contract to the extent that it restricts this provision.” Any on-demand service could easily put a notice restricting copying when you purchase the show.
For videos, the format shifting provision is limited to copying videotapes to DVDs. So even if you had an unprotected DVD, you still couldn’t make a backup of it. (In other news, VCRs are making a comeback.)
Lastly, the private music copying provision can also be curbed by contract: “You could not make a copy of a song that has been downloaded from the Internet and where you have entered into a contract that governs the extent to which you may make copies of the song. In such cases, the terms of the contract would prevail.” So those long forms you click “Agree” on when you sign up for a music site would likely prevent any copying.
Those are the attention-getting provisions which will affect most, if not all Canadians who come in contact with music, movies, television, etc. I will focus provisions that almost exclusively affect students in a future post. In the meantime, check out University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist’s blog. He’s been spearheading the effort to inform Canadians about the copyright reform and is posting 61 reforms to C-61 over the summer.