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Canadian copyright

Canadian government has been trying to reform its copyright legislation for a few years now, but so far attempts have failed due to an excessive bias in favor of copyright holders in the proposed bills. Bill C-32, tabled in June 2010 by Minister of Industry Tony Clement, is the latest proposal to amend the Copyright Act and has been promoted to the public as a change that would strike a balance between the interests of the creators of original contents and the rights of the consumers of said contents. Consultations on copyright were conducted in 2009 and the Government is using that feedback as a starting point to draft the new law. In particular the new legislation aims at updating current regulations in order to reflect the technology shift of the Internet era and consider the new ways that original content is produced, distributed and consumed today.

In fact the proposed legislation would introduce benefits and respect the interests of both main parties involved.On one hand activities that today are part of everyday habits among private individuals, such as recording multimedia content, converting them to different formats (CD to MP3), and performing backups, are not persecuted anymore. Also the bill considerably reduces the fines that private transgressors would face from potentially limitless, depending on the number of infringements, to a total maximum of $5,000.

On the other hand copyright owners are given better means to protect their work, therefore fostering research and encouraging the development of original contents. For example the proposal entitles them to control availability and distribution, along with protecting the integrity of their work with moral rights. More importantly they can make use of digital locks to ensure that their rights are not violated and the law will support them. Additional measures include the facilitation of content distribution to educational organizations such as libraries and museums, encouragement of innovation through research, clarifications on the role and responsibilities of intermediaries, such as Internet Service Providers.

Despite the positive intents behind the project, the bill has sparked mixed reactions among the public and is being criticized for trying to make Canadian law too similar to the American correspondent by both excessively empowering copyright holders and hindering technological development. The center of the debate is the defense of digital locks, also called TPMs, for Technological Protection Measures. The legislator argues that several business models are based on the presence of these means and ultimately delegates to the consumers’ choice whether to support or not companies and products that utilize this sort of protection. Based on this ground the bill makes it illegal to break or circumvent TPMs except for a very limited set of circumstances. This clause has been portrayed as surrender to the pressure of lobbies of major multinationals that are determined to put an end to Canada being an alleged safe-heaven for copyright pirates.

While it’s undoubted that Canadian copyright legislation must be updated, it appears that Bill C-32 fails to address the problem as a whole and attributes the ultimate distinction between a copyright infringement and a legal use to the presence of a technological protection, which eventually translates into availability of funds by the copyright owner. This not only appears unjust because it discriminates the application of the law based on wealth, but also more importantly penalizes medium and small companies that won’t have at their disposal capital sufficient to protect their work.

On one hand it revokes all the consumer rights that were granted in the first place as soon as companies make an effort to invest in including digital locks in their product, which most big companies will do immediately with little impact on the bottom line. On the other hand entrepreneurs and real innovators will struggle to properly defend their creations and ultimately may be tempted to take their business elsewhere. Based on the above it appears that, as it is, the bill only clearly benefits big corporations that are only required a small investment to be legally entitled to chase down consumers who are only looking at getting the most out of the media they legitimately purchased by transferring it to other devices and backing it up for safety.

In conclusion, even though the proposed amendment makes some steps into the right direction by acknowledging the needs of the several parties involved and beginning to understand the way original contents are consumed today, it still suffers from a clear influence from the big players of the industry that are more interested into lobbying their way to maintain the status-quo of the industry rather than listening to their customers and adapt their business model and delivery methods to their new requirements.