The Truth About Canadian Copyright…

If you’re a Canadian who knows a little bit about Canadian politics today, you may note that the possibility of a snap election is very real. So what does this mean for the feared Bill C-60 and what may happen in the future?

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

On November 2nd, the copyright bill was mentioned at the end of the session as having “devastating consequences for both educators and students” The Minister of Canadian Heritage denied that it would even touch the Canadian education system.

The website that talks about the bill paints a very interesting picture of the facts of Bill C-60. According to the information provided, “The bill makes it illegal for anyone other than the copyright holder to place a music file in a shared folder on a computer to which other users of a file-sharing program have access. Thus it will be illegal to upload music files onto on-line shared directories, as is the case when using Kazaa or BitTorrent, unless the person uploading the material is the rights holder of that material. Downloading music files for personal, non-commercial use remains legal under Bill C-60.”

This is, indeed, a very interesting fact considering Graham Henderson, president of the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association) has been notably saying on many occasions that downloading copyrighted materials is illegal even without Bill C-60. So who is right? Graham Henderson or the people who wrote the report for the official website of the Canadian Parliament? Surely the government of Canada would know about something of this magnitude and wouldn’t the job of a president of a large company be far more interested in his or her business, or in this case, the members of the record industry in Canada?

A blogger reported on a commissioned for UNESCO who organized a debate with 200 people of many different backgrounds in May. The statement said, “Virtual and on-line education can never replace the need for traditional institutions. For ICTs to play this role, intellectual property rights must balance the rights of creators with the rights of users. Copyright law must not create overly restrictive legal barriers to the fair use, access and copying of information.” Perhaps they may be indirectly referencing the Creative Commons.

Michael Geist, professor of the University of Ottawa of law and technology has been known to be on Graham Henderson and the CRIA’s case quite a while. Michael has countered Grahams arguments including the CRIA’s notorious poll roughly two months ago which suggests that young Canadians are thieves.

There was however, a study done by the CRTC that suggests that two fifths of Canadian households have subscribed to broadband internet access which amounts to 5.4 million Canadians paying for internet access. In total, about 59% of all Canadians are connected to the internet. Adding to this information, StatsCan suggests that as of July 1st, the age range of 20-29 brings up a total of 4,437,600. According to the Poll commissioned by the CRIA, 60% of this population is willing to download copyrighted works off the internet. This number totals to approximately 2,662,560 users, which is almost roughly the entire eDonkey2000 network. Maybe the poll should have taken into account that there are also millions of users outside of Canada as well. Maybe there is another reason this age group is not paying for 20-40 Canadian dollars per album. According to a recent optimistic poll, “Youth (15-24 years) unemployment: 12.1 per cent (12.7)” which, compared to the other figures, is the highest unemployment for any other age group. There was a saying somewhere about not being able to draw blood from a stone.

Despite questionable polls and telling language, the Canadian industries seem to have rounded up quite a bunch of attention over the years of heavy lobbying. According to the parliament official website, “Rather than the “notice and notice” scheme proposed in Bill C-60, CRIA would prefer to see the “notice and takedown” regime of the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which requires Web sites to remove (or “take down”) allegedly infringing material or face possible liability.” This clearly mirrors the RIAA’s laws in the United States. In fact, “the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association (CMPDA), which is particularly disappointed with the anti-circumvention measures in the proposed legislation.

The issue of piracy is of paramount importance to the CMPDA and computer game developers. These organizations would prefer to see the stronger “notice and takedown” remedy for ISP liability in cases of potential piracy, together with adequate, clear penalties for those who traffic in anti-circumvention devices designed to thwart digital locks on CDs and DVDs.” However, “Others wonder whether the proposed amendments will end up “punish[ing] legitimate users of copyrighted material without making much of a dent on illegal file sharing.”” At the bottom of the article in a small 5 line paragraph, there is a little footnote in the conclusion that mentions the CIPPIC (Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic) who has, largely been known for voicing opposition against these Copyright movements. In the article, the CIPPIC said, “One of the fatal flaws of copyright reform in Canada over the last 20 years is that there’s been a failing to ensure that there is anyone representing ordinary Canadians.”

Currently, one of the biggest headline grabbers is the Gomery enquiry and the Gomery report. In it suggested that the Liberal government (The Liberals are currently the governing party) was responsible for illegal financial gains from Liberal friendly firms as well as illegal spending. Officially, the finger is pointed at the old prime minister Jean Chrétien. However, since Paul Martin, the current Prime Minister, was the minister of finance at that time, so many Canadians are suspicious of him too even though the report cleared him of all wrong-doing. With all of this and the idea that the CRIA have been lobbying for American style copyright laws, it is sure to send a chill down anyone’s spine.

If you haven’t noted this already, this article mentions how it was reported that downloading copyrighted works would still be legal even if Bill C-60 passed as it is. However, Bill C-60 allows a notice and notice regime. This clearly opens the doorway to frivolous lawsuits and scare tactics already seen in the United States.

The upside to all of this? In the United States, since the lawsuits began, the P2P population expanded almost exponentially. If lawsuits were to race around in Canada like they do in the US, perhaps the Canadian P2P population will significantly grow as well.

That being said, there is also the issue of tampering with DRM, the negative impacts this may have on Canadian education, the negative impacts this may already have on the already backed up Canadian legal system and plenty of other things. Unfortunately for the recording industry, Bill C-60 may not see the second reading. With the current political climate, an election is right around the corner unofficially. If the bill is still in first reading or even makes it into second reading, and the election is called, the bill effectively dies and all that work the recording industry in Canada has to be done all over again.

For many, this may come to a relief, but the war is far from over. There is a very real possibility that the recording industry may be able to lobby for a new bill that will put the laws even greater in their favor. Maybe they will even work that “notice and takedown” regime. Maybe they will work in higher penalties based on assumption of copyright infringement that was already suggested in Bill C-60. At this point in time, nothing is for certain except the fact that the battle may be won for Canadians, but the war is not over.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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