Category Archives: copyright

Things to be afraid of: like Canada’s upcoming copyright bill


Canada hasn’t updated the copyright act in many years. Not for lack of trying. But it so happens that various amendments of varying quality by various governments have died on the order books in the course of various elections. In fact Canada has not yet acted on the US-led WIPO anti-piracy treaty (complete with DRM protection measures) we technically signed on to back in 1998.

In this long gap of “lawlessness” in Canadian copyright a few important things have not happened. Canadian film, tv, music, game and art creators have not closed up shop or fled the country en masse. Canadian artists have not stopped churning out prodigious volumes of fantastic indie music, literature and all kinds of screen-based entertainment. The Canadian economy and Canada geographically has not cracked in half, imploded and fallen into the ocean. In fact Canada has done pretty well.

We’ll see what happens next week. From the Post via Michael Geist:

All signals suggest Heritage Minister James Moore has triumphed over the objections of Industry Minister Tony Clement, setting up Canada to march in excessively protected lockstep with a United States that boasts the toughest laws against pirated music or movies on the planet.

It may well be a legal constraint that’s impossible to enforce, but the rumble out of the PMO suggests the new law will ignore the extensive public consultations that advocated a go-easy take on copying of CDs and DVDs in favour of robust anti-consumer limits on transferring or sharing content. If this comes to pass, the federal government will be headed for a very bad week when the House of Commons reconvenes on Tuesday.

The timing is conspicuous. One wonders if Harper is selling out Canadians to the US on digital rights to gain political capital going in to next month’s G20. We shall see.

Smartest idea they’ve had in a while

Reliable data IBM guy

The Motion Picture Association of America has tried any number of tactics to fight piracy, but its latest scheme might actually prove useful to movie consumers on the Internet. The group is supposedly working on a new website that will offer information on how to find legit sources of movies so that users won’t have to resort to copyright infringement.

The site, which does not yet have a name, would allow users to search for film titles, and in return it would provide links to places to buy movie tickets, to locations where searchers could buy or rent a DVD, or to sites where they can buy or rent a download from an online source. All of the major movie studios are behind the initiative, an anonymous movie studio source told Variety, and all legit “partners” would be linked on the site.

I’ve long argued that if the movie and music industry spent half as much energy into competing with the “pirates” as they do trying to criminalize their customers they’d be much further ahead. If only rights holders would make their content digitally available, findable, in a reasonable/usable format (this almost always means DRM-free) at a price that’s affordable, and not just available in the US we’d all be better off.

Business idea #63. Go build a for-profit version of this service for the music that lets user discover and price shop DRM-free sources of music for any band wherever they live. Hypemachine sort of acheives this. But not really.

Link: MPAA planning site to offer legit movie links

How the new Canadian Copyright bill fails Canadians

As reported everywhere, Canada’s industry minister introduced a new copyright bill yesterday. And it’s no good. However, assuming we need “reform” at all, there are simple changes that could go a long way to fixing it.

The most important of these would be a qualifier on “anti-circumvention”. In the current bill, any circumvention is automatically an infringement no matter the purpose, no matter how trivial the circumvention. Why anti-circumvention provisions are necessary at all is a dubious proposition to begin with. However, if we must have make this simple change: make circumvention only a crime if done for the purposes of infringement.

The way the bill is written now it gives media owners, and anyone who encrypts anything carte-blanche to over-ride all fair-dealings exceptions build into the copyright act.

Meanwhile the so-called “reductions” in penalties to infringers are fairly ridiculous. The “limited to” $500 penalties are per infringement. Any kid with a thousand song ipod theoretically liable for up to $500,000. Jesse Hirsh has put it well, describing the new legislation as criminalizing a generation of Canadians.

Why do we need “long overdue” copyright reform in Canada at all? Look at what the last 10 years shown us in, for example, the record industry. It’s shown us a steep decline in the revenues to top-40 manufactured hits and warmed over franchise brands pushed through old mainstream channels. Meanwhile the total amount, quality and variation of independent media and music has absolutely skyrocketed.

In the last ten years, the music industry has at last stepped away from it’s failed experiment with technical protection measures. Amazon, Itunes, emusic, zunior (in Canada) and every major label are all now offering DRM-free options. Why are we enshrining protection for these technologies based on 10-year old assumptions of how the industry would evolve?

The good news is that the bill has only reached it’s first reading and there will be time for revisions before the second reading in the fall. It’s important that you make your voice heard. Get behind the facebook group, keep an eye on Micheal Geist, and talk to your MP.

Jim Prentice was once known as a populist. He may find sense yet. There is still time for our country to take off the proverbial knee-pads and step away from the US media industry lobby.