“Canada’s DMCA”, a.k.a. Bill C-61, Wasn’t Written for You and Me

The new Canadian copyright bill, Bill C-61, was not written for you and me. Canadians with a stake in this law, ranging from customers (I try not to use the term “consumer”) to libraries and educators to artists, record companies and other entertainment industry groups — were not consulted. Bill C-61 was written to the specifications of U.S. officials and American entertainment industry lobby groups, who pressured the U.S. government of approving the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law that has been used by the music and movie industry as an excuse to harass customers and turn litigation into a profit center.

Goodbye Backups, Hello Paying for Multiple Copies

Two copies of \"Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle\"

One of the provisions of Bill C-61 is that you are allowed to make a backup copy of a legally-purchased CD or DVD or transfer it to your MP3 player or computer for personal use — if and only if there isn’t a digital “lock” that prevents such backups. If a song or movie has some kind of copy protection scheme, that allowance is gone.

The practical upshot of this is that the watching your DVD of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is perfectly legal if you pop it into your DVD player, but illegal if you copy it over to your iPod for viewing on your next business trip. The movie studio would rather you bought another copy, which would only be authorized for play on your iPod. And that mix CD you were planning to make for the car for your roadtrip to the cottage? You’ll be breaking the law for each song that you transfer from copy-protected sources. Want a backup copy of your hi-def The Seven Samurai DVD because you love the film so much and want to keep the original in a safe place? The industry has a simple solution: buy another! Making a backup copy’s illegal, after all.

As we move to systems like iPods and PVRs, the industry is also making moves towards per-device licensing. Their ideal would be for a movie that you purchased via download on your computer be licensed only for that computer; if you want to view it on your Tivo, you’ll have to purchase a copy for your Tivo.

For the entertainment industry, this kind of law is a great deal. They don’t have to do any real work — they can slap any old lame copy-protection scheme on their wares, even ones that have been outmoded. The minute you circumvent that copy protection — which is essentially just a way of squeezing as much money from you as they can — they can use the legal system to squeeze as much money from you as they can.

Goodbye VCR Features

VCR vs. Tivo - in some ways, the VCR is more capable.

Another provision of Bill C-61 allows you to record television shows on your PVR. That is, if the broadcaster doesn’t disallow recording, which it can do by embedded a “broadcast flag” within the signal — a digital signal that tells your PVR that it’s not allowed to record the show, because that will cut into sales of the DVD box set of the show that they’ll eventually release. In other words, in many cases, your PVR will actually be less capable of recording shows than its clunkier, lower-fidelity predecessor, the VCR.

Here’s another way the VCR has an edge over the modern PVR: with a VCR, you can keep a permanent library of your favourite shows, which will last as long as your tapes do. No such luck with a PVR under Bill C-61: PVRs built in compliance with the bill are not allowed to keep a permanent library of your shows. They will be built with a limited amount of storage and with no backup capability, and just to be safe, all shows recorded on a PVR will be deleted if they are kept for longer than a pre-specified amount of time.

A Betrayal

Man with dollar bills over his glasses.

Simply put, Bill C-61 is a legal stick with which the U.S. entertainment industry can use to beat more money out of us by making us pay for the same thing over and over again. It lets the Canadian government abdicate its responsibility for making laws and hands over that responsibility to American record and movie companies, who will treat it as a profit centre. It is, in the words of Canadian internet/e-commerce law expert Michael Geist, a betrayal.

It is not, in the words of Industry Minister Jim Prentice, a “balanced approach to truly benefit Canadians”.

What You Can Do

I’m borrowing this list from Michael Geist:

  1. Write to your MP, the Industry Minister, the Canadian Heritage Minister, and the Prime Minister. If you send an email, be sure to print it out and drop a copy in the mail. If you are looking for a sample letter, visit Copyright for Canadians.
  2. Take 30 minutes from your summer to meet directly with your MP. From late June through much of the summer, your MP will be back in your community attending local events and making themselves available to meet with constituents. Give them a call and ask for a meeting. Every MP in the country should return to Ottawa in the fall having heard from their constituents on this issue.
  3. If you are not a member of the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group, join. If you are, consider joining or starting a local chapter and be sure to educate your friends and colleagues about the issue.

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14 replies on ““Canada’s DMCA”, a.k.a. Bill C-61, Wasn’t Written for You and Me”

A betrayal? Is anyone really surprised that the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, leader of the Canadian Republican Party, would do something like this?

It brings to mind the other controversial bill of the moment, Bill C-51, which is about regulating non-pharmaceutical health products. It has an interesting (read: terrifying) provision that allows the government to import foreign laws wholesale as “regulations” with no parliamentary oversight.

Hello, FDA! If you thought Health Canada was bad up until now, just wait until they’re a proxy for an American industry enforcement agency.

Just out of curiosity: is this bill substantively different from the Liberal take on the DMCA from a few years ago? I remember Sarmite Bulte was thrown out of her seat over that bill.

[…] to see my old pal Joey the Accordion Guy getting in on the C-61 hating: Another provision of Bill C-61 allows you to record television shows on your PVR. That is, if the […]

If I was a professional musician & I spent all of my hours writing music so that I can make a measely $0.10 in royalties every now & then just to pay my rent & put food on my table, then Joe Public who downloads my music for free is stealing from me.

You have to protect the intellectual property that the writer owns to give them income & an incentive to create more music. Otherwise, why should they make the effort to begin with? After all, which of you here would go to work tomorrow if you knew you weren’t going to get paid for YOUR efforts?

It’s really no different than computer programs & books, generally-speaking. Lend a book out to friends so they can read it. But if you’re making thousands of copies for friends, then the writer only made royalties from the sale of your 1 book while the copies you made enriched 1000s of your friends, for free.

Tell me how that is fair to the writer.

Geez, you would think that some of youwould advocate that file sharing/free downloads of computer programs like MS Office, etc. should be allowed. After all, in principle what’s the difference between my file of MS Office or David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ other theat the complexities & size of the file itself? If it’s obviously wrong to freely share computer programs without the author’s consent, then the same should apply to music files.

Someone spent time & effort to create something. Stop being cheap and pay them $0.99 for the bloody download instead of looking for the freebie. What’s the matter? Can’t spare the loonie?

@Ignatz Zayats: Wrong, wrong, wrong — as you are about 90% of the time. But unlike about 66% of your comments, not asshole-ish enough to be deleted. You should thank your lucky stars that I keep you around for entertainment value.

Expect a more formal rebuttal later.

In the U.S., we’re dealing with a similar issue with the RIAA. In addition to hunting down and prosecuting people who illegally share music, they are going after people who purchase CDs and copy them to their home computer.

It’s unbelievably stupid. Like many people, I listen to my music via my iPod and the only way to listen to the music on my CDs is to copy them into my iTunes and then load them onto my iPod. If it’s illegal to do that, I may as well just download single songs or albums (at reduced rates and royalties) from iTunes.

Way to go RIAA! The CD is almost dead and you’re about to put the final nail in the coffin!

Professor Geist’s position is that that the Copyright Act traditionally (& explicitly) allows for copying of protected materials for private use, research, private study, criticism, and news reporting. He posits that Bill C-61 denies you that opportunity if you unlock the digital codes. And while he may be right, the issue is that this is the dictum from Parliament itself. (Side note: He teaches at the school that gave me one of my degrees. A lot of the minds there are all a ‘little’ off the centre line. In fact, IMHO, I can’t think of one true centrist or conservative full prof at that institution, except for the tax guru there. I think it’s the lead in the Ottawa municipal drinking water.)

My God, how many copies do you need for personal use or private study? Or even to teach? Isn’t 1 enough?

That’s the same Parliament that made it easy for your illegal downloaders not to get charged for royalties by your ISP providers because it enacted s. 2.4(1)(b) of the Copyright Act specifically exempting that collection (and upheld by the Supreme Court in the case – Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada v. Canadian Assn. of Internet Providers, [2004] 2 S.C.R. 427, 2004 SCC 45) So you’re happy with one decision of Parliament & upset with another. Hey, you can’t have your cake & eat it too. Go bitch to your MP. See if those Conservative chowderheads will listen at all. (Personally, I can’t stand them myself.)

You’re right in your first line. C-61 was not written for you & me. It was written to protect intellectual property owners. You know, those people who invested time & money to create that masterpiece, ‘Harold & Kumar Go to Rexdale’. Whether it’s a book, a DVD or a song, it’s all copyrighted material & one isn’t different from another (the Court in the SOCAN case made this point when it referenced the prior Supreme Court case of CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, [2004] 1 S.C.R. 339, 2004 SCC 13 which dealt with alleged copying of lawbooks in the law library).

And while you can make infinite copies of a book for personal or education use, you can’t do it for digital files IF you break the code. Isn’t that more, or less, the same rules for IT programs? (ie. I can copy my MS Office onto X computers, but if I do it on more, then I need a license. Otherwise, I’m breakin’ the law.). So why should it be any different for my Harold & Kumar DVD? If I need more copies, I should get (sorry, pay for) a license from the copyright holder. Right?

If you read the preamble to Bill C-61, it rightfully states that:
“Whereas in the current digital era copyright protection is enhanced when countries adopt coordinated approaches, based on internationally recognized norms;

Whereas such norms are reflected in the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty and the World Intellectual Property Organization Performances and Phonograms Treaty, adopted in Geneva in 1996;

Whereas such norms are not wholly reflected in the Copyright Act;”

the proposed measures in C-61 reflect that Canada has been behind the rest of the world in this domain. Your statement above was that “the law refuses to go forward.” I think instituting standards that are already reflected in other WIPOC countries is moving forward.

The practical reality if this Bill is proclaimed into law is that:
“It’s not like entertainment companies are about to go sue people,” he said. “It’s about people who are making libraries of massive infringement and making them available to their friends that they have over the Internet.”

So don’t worry, your multiple copies of Harold & Kumar will go unnoticed by the Copyright Gestapo & you’ll bicycle off into the sunset with a smirk on your face ’cause you just got one over on The Man.

And while Terence Corcoran may have raised your bile level, he wasn’t too far off the mark when he said that this probably won’t make it to law if there’s a fall election. (I don’t have too much time for him either.)

The bottom line is that you need to protect the author & the copyright. Why? Because it’s someone’s property. You’re just buying a license to use it for a limited purpose. If you don’t protect it, the ownership & authorship of this type of property is diminshed & worthless.

If you think so little of intellectual property rights & the need to protect them, let me know so I can start printing up “The Accordion Guy” T-Shirts & Mugs with direct excerpts from this website & copies of your artistic cartoon doodles in my old high school yearbooks, sell them at a premium & keep all of the money to myself. Or how about I get someone to hack the code at your company’s webpages & pass the programs off as my own scripts on a new website. That’s not fair? Exactly.

So please tell me where I’m “wrong, wrong wrong.” And while you’re doing that, please let me know how you would protect the work, sweat and $$ of copyright holders. I’m always open to reasonable suggestions.

With love always,

PS. Don’t people read books anymore?

@Ignatz Zayats: I’ll tell you where you’re “wrong, wrong, wrong” in a series of upcoming articles in the very near future. There’s some other stuff that I’d like to finish writing for this blog before I begin with that series, but I promise that you shall have my full rebuttal, plus an exploration of the implications of copyright in the age of digital networks.

Let me make it clear that I believe in copyright and the compensation of creators for their works. I understand that its intent is to promote the development of art and science and ensure that creators are compensated for their efforts. My problem with laws like the DMCA and its proposed Canadian equivalent, Bill C-61, is that they twist copyright law from something to ensure the continued creation of scientific and artistic works and the betterment of society into a stick that middlemen are using to beat more money out of their customers.

To tide you over, I thought I’d give you a quick answer to a couple of questions in your last comment.

Or how about I get someone to hack the code at your company’s webpages & pass the programs off as my own scripts on a new website?

“Hack the code at your company’s webpages?” Stick to law, dude; throwing together terms that you heard on TV does not constitute a grasp of technology.

But to respond to your question: You can do that. b5media is built on Open Source software, meaning that the source code for the software on which the blog network runs — the Apache web server, the MySQL database, the PHP programming language and the WordPress blogging application — are readily available for all.

There’s a reason why this system works, but that’s an explanation I’ll save for when I have a little more time.

[…] the term ???consumer??? to libraries and educators to artists, record companies and other entertainm GUIDE San Francisco ChronicleTODAY Jessica Anya Blau and Vincent Louis Carrella Blau talks […]

“My God, how many copies do you need for personal use or private study? Or even to teach? Isn’t 1 enough?”

Yes, one is enough, if it can be used everywhere the owner of the copy goes. DRM and Bill C-61 want to make multiple copies to be required to adhere to the law, even when common sense and technology allow for one [legally purchased] copy to be enough. If someone is told that they have to buy a DVD 3 times over to legally use it everywhere they go, then they’ll give the DVD industry the middle finger, not buy any copies, and use free software to get a free copy.

The marketplace has spoken, but Jim Prentice and the Conservatives are out to build an American marketplace for lawyers, in Canada.

Has anyone owned DRM music? Or DRm games? I do. And guess what, when you want to reinstall your windows or some online stores do not properly help backup the licensing, and you lose it. Anytime I have to reinstall or put it on a laptop for my travel I have to send a message or explain each time. Its a real pain in the butt. I can tell you from owning these DRM products I am sworn not to buy anymore of that. And its not just about copies or downloaders. Its about laws being passed that are not thought out properly and create hudge problems for our rights. The Industry will only take it and make litigation a profit machine. And the method of which they obtain this so called evidence is totally bogus to anyone who understands any of the process in which they obtain this so called proof. They are suing people who don’t even have computers in Italy or dead people and children. People who have no finances to defend themselves.Its a circus in town. Sure update copyright laws but think it out a lot better than the way it is. Its one more chip away from our bill of rights, setting our society into less of a free world than it already was. Think this out more. As is this bill is trash and needs refinement.

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