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.