Canada’s new Copyright proposals: how to make Grandma a criminal

Fri Jun 13 10:53:28 2008 EDT (-0400 GMT)

Want to send Grandma a DVD (OK, maybe play for her a DVD) of the latest baby pictures with your favourite Beatles songs in the background? If Canada’s proposed update to copyright law makes it into law it will result in a $500 fine for Grandma and a $20,000 fine for Mom and Dad! The only saving grace is baby might be able to extract $20,000 from Grandma if she screened the DVD for her knitting circle.

This is one of the many individual uses that generally considered fair use (dealing) in Canada that is being attacked by bill C-61, the proposed amendments to Canada’s Copyright Act.

Canadians will have to consider every time they press play: “will this cost me $20,000?”

This bill is about protecting or creating failed business models and it is anti-consumer, anti-innovation, does little for actual artists (rarely the actual rights holder), circumvents the market and tramples on fair use/fair dealing while ensuring rights holders are entitled to extra revenue for content they’ve already sold to consumers transferring play-back devices.

The same government that refuses to change the rules to protect Canadians when circumstances change are apparently willing to protect largely American owned rights-holders when circumstances change for them. Canadian consumers worried about unfair prices when the Canadian dollar overtook the American dollar ignored, Canadian workers in the finance minister’s home riding can’t even get a visit from their MP when their contract was violated, but when technology makes it hard for companies to enforce unreasonable contract restrictions the Harper government offers up a federal law to remove rights from Canadians.

On the surface the bill’s set fines for private use infringement aren’t unreasonable, as theft should not be tolerated and Canada need not make itself a land where it is. What makes the fines etc. unreasonable is the amount of use restrictions and rights that are removed by this bill that make simple acts like watching a DVD from Europe or Japan illegal.

Restrictions on un-locking mobile phones (to be used on other carriers at home or abroad) , that consumers may own outright, are very anti-competitive and anti-consumer. Other provisions, like those for education, are laughable: Librarians can distribute electronic materials, but must ensure that the use of those materials not extend beyond five days — I know librarians who have trouble removing things from their own computers, let alone remote ones. In fact, the bill would likely be better without the education exemptions because it just makes the current confusing situation even more so; would this bill take supersede any distribution agreements? (Agreements that use a lot of words to answer the re-use question with no or, yes but you can’t afford it).

For these reasons and more I’ve already E-Mailed Minister Prentice and asked him to reconsider his proposals in the interest of fair use/fair dealing. I encourage you to do the same! I’m working on a collection of concerns using them to program a daily E-Mail to the minister and others.

Here are somethings you can do:

30 Things you can do Fair Copyright for Canada - Facebook group


  1. That CBC screen-shot below: illegal. \/
  2. My local MP Garth Turner made some speculation about what the C-61 press conference might have cost

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