copyright law puts canadians at risk

Jim Prentice fled. Like a sissy. And you can’t really blame him. Prentice’s proposed copyright legislation is a selloff of Canadian…

Jim Prentice fled. Like a sissy.

And you can’t really blame him.

Prentice’s proposed copyright legislation is a selloff of Canadian citizens’ rights to corporate interests, most based in the US.

The legislation panders to corporate greed.

As such, it is indefensible.

And so, when faced with some tough, insightful questions from reporter Jesse Brown on CBC’s podcast Search Engine, Prentice turned tail. (You can hear this remarkable interview for yourself through iTunes.)

What was most disturbing about the session was how little Prentice knew about music CDs, digital rights management, digital media and his own legislation.

And that’s a problem.

Prentice calls this a made-in-Canada solution.

But it came about through intense lobbying from the US entertainment industry and, while drafted in Canada, many consider it a copy of the much-reviled American Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

While there was a lot of talk with US lobbyists, there was very little, if any, consultation with Canadians.

And the result is legislation that will make millions of Canadians criminals for doing perfectly reasonable actions with content they own.

We’re not talking piracy here.

We’re talking fair use of digital material that you bought.

For example, if you back up your child’s favourite, and expensive, DVDs to guard against scratches — you’ve just broken the law. Twice.

Once for backing up a DVD — that’s not allowed under the law.

The second violation is for cracking the digital rights management that is included on every DVD and most songs sold through iTunes.

And the statutory penalty for that infraction is not capped at $500, a number often cited by Prentice.

According to the bill, if you break the DRM on any digital content you are on the hook for a $20,000 statutory penalty.

It is the proposed legislation’s digital lock provisions that compromises consumer rights so badly.

It gives corporations the ability to lock down any digital content.

Business will love this. It could force Canadians to buy the same content over and over again.

A couple of examples:

Currently, most television signals are digital. An increasing number of broadcasts are tagged with an anti-copying stamp.

So, while the legislation permits Canadians to “time shift” their television watching by recording their favourite shows, that right is trumped by the law’s draconian DRM provisions.

If broadcasters include a digital lock in the broadcast, you will be prevented from recording that show.

If you can’t watch your favourite show at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, too bad. You’ll have to buy the DVD. Or rent it from iTunes.

Or, say you subscribe to Bell satellite TV service, but record shows on a Hewlett Packard digital recorder, this legislation could junk your existing video recorder.

With a simple digital signature in the broadcast, Bell could prevent you from recording its signal unless you owned its digital recorder.

Again, there would be less competition — the law will force people to buy a proprietary hardware.

That anti-competitive environment will lead to higher prices for content and hardware.

The producers will, literally, lock down the market.

The same applies to music.

Because of the legislation’s DRM provisions, you will be prevented from putting a favourite song bought through iTunes onto your daughter’s RCA device. You’d have to buy the song a second time in the RCA format.

That’s because most iTunes downloads are protected by the company’s DRM, and the legislation prevents you from circumventing that digital lock.

Again, if you did so you would be liable to a statutory penalty of up to $20,000.

Fair?

Hardly.

Which is unfortunate, because Canada needs copyright legislation that is fair to all — artists, companies and the users of material.

This bill isn’t going to do that.

Bowing to pressure from the US, Prentice has drafted legislation that is largely unworkable, but could potentially allow US media companies to sue ordinary Canadians into bankruptcy for simply trying to enjoy content they bought on devices they bought in a way they have for years.

Prentice was incapable of defending the bill on Brown’s show.

And, in the end, he fled.

That should make Canadians profoundly nervous. (RM)

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