By Ryan McGreal
Published January 18, 2011
As always, the mighty Michael Geist has the lowdown on the latest twists in Bill C-32, the Conservative Government's attempt to ram American-style copyright reform down Canada's throat.
After a year of broad-based consultation, the Government abandoned all that inconvenient public feedback and unilaterally introduced an industry-friendly bill which, among its measures, makes it a criminal offence to circumvent a digital lock for any reason.
This provision is called anti-circumvention because it makes prohibits customers from circumventing 'digital locks' on the content they purchased.
The bill's apologists point out that the bill makes exceptions for fair personal use, educational use by teachers, and so on, but the anti-circumvention provision trumps these protections and renders them toothless. All a company has to do is install some kind of digital lock and it becomes a criminal offence to break that lock.
Geist argues that an opportunity still exists to push the Government into a compromise that actually respects users' rights with respect to copyright:
Given the current minority government, it has always been clear that compromise with at least one opposition party will be needed to pass Bill C-32. With Bloc MPs circulating petitions opposed to the bill, the Liberals and NDP are the obvious hopes for finding a solution.
Copyright reform must provide legal means for Canadians to circumvent digital locks for legitimate reasons. It should not be illegal for me to break a digital lock on a device that I own for legal purposes - any more than it should be illegal for me to "break into" my car to perform an oil change.
Why on earth are we stubbornly refusing to learn from the bitter experience of American anti-circumvention law since the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?
It's no coincidence that the US Copyright Office recently ruled it is not illegal to jailbreak an iPhone by circumventing Apple's digital locks. After 12 years, the US is backpedaling away from anti-circumvention just as Canada prepares to rush headlong into it.
It's simply not good enough, as Heritage Minister James Moore has argued, to "trust the market" or to "trust consumers to purchase products they want and creators to follow".
There's nothing free-market about a law that enables state intervention to criminalize fair personal use of a product that a corporation decides to saddle with DRM. It gives businesses the power to lock their customers out of their own devices and provides a perverse incentive for industry collusion and superficial DRM-for-its-own sake.
Take a few minutes to read Geist's excellent overview of the issue, and then tell the Government what you think: