Canadian DMCA To Be Introduced This Spring

The Hill Times reports this week (issue still not online) that the Conservative government will introduce copyright reform legislation this spring provided that there is no election.  The paper points to two main changes from the Liberals Bill C-60 – tougher anti-circumvention legislation (ie. DMCA-style laws that ban devices that can be used to circumvent as well as provisions that block all circumvention subject to the odd exception) and an educational exception that will provide for free access to web-based materials.

If this report is true, the bill will be remarkable in its ability generate more opposition than any prior copyright bill in Canadian history.  From a policy perspective, it is a disaster – dangerous and unnecessary laws to support DRM and an educational exception that does little to address the needs of the education community while encouraging even greater use of DRM. 

From a political perspective, it is even worse.  Who will oppose the bill?  For starters:

  • creator groups, such as the CMCC, Appropriation Art, the Documentary Organization of Canada, all of whom have emphasized the need for fair dealing reform, not DRM
  • copyright collectives, for whom anti-circumvention is a secondary issue and the educational exception will be viewed as a complete betrayal
  • the Quebec copyright and education communities, which has come out against the educational exception at both the ministerial and cultural levels
  • the broader education and library communities, who (apart from CMEC and AUCC who have spent years lobbying for the educational exception) recognize that the reform does little to address their real needs
  • the retail community, who hoped the government would address private copying (as promised in its copyright policy position)
  • broadcasters, who hoped the government would address the ephemeral rights issue
  • the privacy community, who will fear that the legal protections for DRM will damage privacy rights
  • consumer groups, who will note that anti-circumvention legislation has already had a negative impact on basic consumer interests in Europe and the United States
  • the Canadian public, who will wonder why it is still unlawful to copy music onto an iPod or record a television show or a create a parody on YouTube
  • the NDP
  • possibly the Liberals, who will jump at the opportunity to promote their C-60 bill as a better bill
  • possibly the Bloc, who will be unwilling to support a bill that includes the educational exception

Who will like it?  That's a pretty short list. 

  • the U.S. government will obviously be pleased about the anti-circumvention legislation, but will quickly adopt a "what you have done for me lately" position by emphasizing copyright term extension and movie camcording.
  • CRIA will obviously be happy with the anti-circumvention legislation, but will note that more is needed including a "clarification" of private copying
  • CMEC/AUCC will be happy with the provision, but will wonder why students, professors, teachers, and parents are so displeased with the backroom deal they've struck

That's my quick scorecard (if you find yourself represented on the list, consider what you can do about it). It is always challenging to strike the right balance in copyright, but if the Hill Times report is accurate, it would appear that the Conservatives will be walking straight into a bill with little upside and considerable political risk.


  1. Colin Smith says:

    Programmers and hardware developers will hate this too. Every time there is a silly legal constraint added, there is a lot more wasted time and expense to comply with it.

    And of course, who is it that won’t care about this legislation? Those whom it is intended to stop. There are always ways around content protection schemes. Someone who is intent on breaking the law by copyright infingement won’t be stopped by this. Maybe they’ll be slowed down by a few minutes while they search Google for the workaround, but they won’t be stopped.

  2. Dwight Williams says:

    A perfect summation
    This is something I’ve been very much hoping to not see introduced, much less passed, by the current Parliament. I’m guessing that my MP will likely be “onside” with such a bill in spite of my stated fears.

  3. Chris Smith says:

    At least one more group…
    Larger businesses with dedicated information security staff will need to take a close look at this. One of the concerns is that should ‘protection software’ be come illegal to remove, then your staff incur a legal liability when they are only removing the software for security reasons. (Think Sony rootkit …)

    However – given the length of time a bill needs from introduction through third reading and proclamation, isn’t it more likely this will die on the order paper at election time? (Or is this somehow a clue about whether or not there will be an election this year?). On that point – introducing a contentious bill just before an election is not usually a good idea. Except – if you don’t really want to introduce it, then you put it out, satisfy your supporters, and then respond to the flood of attacks by backing down, and telling your supporters that NO government could do this.

    I think I just made my own brain hurt.

  4. Dwight Williams says:

    Interesting Point…
    …given how C-60 as was went under the election call’s wheels under Mr. Martin. I wonder if we can afford to count on a repeat of that particular bit of good luck this time out.

  5. Steve Brown says:

    That’s what we get… America-Lite DMCA laws. I’m sorry to have to say we deserve such for electing a Bush-Lite to “govern” our country.

    North America is about to lose their edge in high-tech to countries that still believe in democratic governments, IMHO

  6. Tougher anti-circumvention? For things like DVDs, which are riddled with DRM, it’ll be illegal to circumvent. But what of audio CDs that are now all release without DRM. It can’t be illegal to circumvent a DRM that isn’t even deployed. Format shifting from CD to your MP3 players seems to be “safe” (for now).

  7. Companies
    Microsoft and Apple will also love this bill so they can establish legal lock-in to their platforms and drive out Linux and other competition.

    Too bad for us customers…

  8. Dave Cannon says:

    Graduate Student
    Call me a partisan, but I see no difference in the way the Tories and Grits will see this as a whole, making the only rational respose to fears of this going forward, both before and after the anticipated election call, to elect more New Democrats to the house.

    I know that my MP, or at least the staffers he pays to answer his emails, seem to agree that this is bogus and a major step backward for our society. I am not stupid enough to expect similar sentiments from the likes of Bev Oda, and I recall that she’s no better on this issue than Bulte was when the Liberals were in power.

  9. mr.
    I think I just threw up a little…..

    I’ll definitely contact my parly-critter about this, though I’m not quite sure what effect it will have(he’s of the ‘they have the internet on computers now?’ and ‘young people are ruffians who need to be kept in line’ sort)


  10. Debate
    There is a nearly endless list of people who oppose the likes of Bill C-60. In the technology and entertainment community (but entertainment community, I’m not referring to the big guns who can’t see past innovations beyond the phonogram) if the calls for a balanced approach is not answered, the Tories would lose complete credibility just like the Liberals. It would be hard to just hand the cultural keys to foreign interests with a DMCA-like copyright reform bill without getting hurt amongst constituents who elected them to represent their views.

    I think the biggest misconception is that those who oppose a DMCA-like bill are simply those who just want to download the latest top 40 material without legal pressure. Nothing can be further from the truth. As we’ve seen time and time again, innovation requires a balanced copyright law. What if there was a security flaw in that DRM? What if it was exploited? What if the company won’t admit there’s a problem with their DRM? Then it would be legally impossible to fix the hole in the first place.

    I’m an artist. I depend on fair copyright legislation. What if something I come up with bears a very vague resemblence to another song? Some big record label could come down on me and sue me out of existence. It doesn’t have to be about what they consider potential theft, it’s more about eliminating competition altogether.

    This bill is about the future of Canada’s culture. This bill is about Canada’s technological future. We can’t let laws destroy every bit of potential Canada has to change the world for the better. I could go endlessly about why DMCA-type law in Canada would be bad, but I’ll leave this longer post at that.

  11. Here it goes…
    My MP can be expecting a letter shortly.

  12. musician
    is there an online petition setup somewhere that we can sign?

  13. They may even get away with it
    They may even get away with passing this bill, by putting forth the argument that anyone who opposes it must be a pirate.

    Just like how they passed the bill for firearms registration …anyone who opposes that must be a bank robber or a murderer.

    Just like how the RCMP, using Child Find Manitoba as its straw man, gets away with blocking suspected kiddie porn websites at the ISP level …anyone who opposes that must be a child pornographer!

  14. The other supporters would be lawyers. This is really an enormous make-work project for lawsuits, done in bulk. The RIAA already practices this and with strong legislation it\’s easy to send out mass settlement requests to accusations of DRM tampering.

    I mean, does the new copyright law make any provisions of what \”DRM\” actually consists of? It can be a trivially simple protection mechanism that invites removal.

    The onus should be on the content owner to have a high level of DRM. But, once it is properly secured can it be argued that it is now in the public domain at all?

    Another side of this is that if DRM is heavily protected by law, it doesn\’t mean people will buy it. Look at bluray and HD DVD sales. They are minuscule compared to DVD, and there is very little magic involved in delivering higher definition files. Most of the \”magic\” is reserved for DRM and chips that can unencrypt multiple levels of protection fast enough. You can buy red laser 3xDVD\’s that have almost the same storage space as HD DVD but at a smaller price. All that is missing is the cost of DRM.

  15. Darryl Moore says:

    I would support legal protection for DRM
    I would support legal protection for DRM under two conditions.

    1) we also have fair use provisions in our copyright laws so we can legally use VCRs, time shift, and format shift our media WITHOUT paying extra (levies) for the privileged.

    2) That legal protection for DRM only applies to items which respect these fair use rights.

    3) That statutory damages on the same order of magnitude that the recording industry wants for copyright violations be imposed for each copy of media which does not respect our fair use rights. (I’d call this the tit-for-tat provision.)

  16. Darryl Moore says:

    ummm… make that 3 conditions
    Hmmm, I don’t count to three very well do I :-)

  17. This is just more proof that our system of government is responsible to US corporations and not the Canadian people. Our system of government needs to be abolished completely and rebuilt under a working model of responsible government. I just wonder how bad life is going to have to get in this country before people pull their head out of the sand. We may soon wake up in the same position as many south american countries where everything was sold out from under them in the name of privatization. The rich people left with the money and the common people had no food, water or resources. The fact is that the music of a culture BELONGS to that culture as much as the artist..these days the corporations claim ownership of our culture and it’s long past due that we demand it back.

  18. [i]Written by Darryl Moore Hmmm, I don’t count to three very well do I :-) [/i]

    And I just thought you were part of the Spanish Inquisition… and just like the Spanish Inquisition (from the Monty Python sketch fear and surprise will be their main weapons… ruthless efficiency won’t be won.

    This bill is an ill-conceived copy of the DCMA. Too bad they didn’t leave in the last DCMA section requiring the double-hulling of American Registered shipping…

  19. This is exactly why I use only free software- primarily GNU/Linux- and don’t purchase DRM content in the first place. Theft is justified when the only legal alternative is DRM. I, however avoid content that embraces DRM in the first place since my own familiarity with that content promotes DRM.

  20. Hmmm…anyone think we could get one or more of the opposition parties on side for a “consumer’s-rights” bill guranteeing fair use rights, forbidding DRM that interferes with those rights? Presented properly that would be “motherhood issue” that would be hard for any politician to oppose. If we just oppose this bill they can trot out the “OMG PIRATES” pony, but a “pro-consumer” bill might reverse the onus.

  21. Ah great. Now not only will your HD-DVD players not play legit HD-DVDs you buy, but it’ll be illegal to do anything about it too:
    [ link ]

  22. Accessibility Specialist
    I am concerned about the potential negative effects on people with disabilities and users of Adaptive Computer Technologies (ACT).
    What if even the most trivial DRM technologies don’t “play nice” with ACT? Are there going to be provisions to allow “circumvention” of these technologies to allow people to modify their systems to be able to use their legitimately purchased products?
    Is using Open Book and a scanner to read text that is not available in alternate formats a violation of the new copyright act?
    Does the definition of “perceptual disability” include people with dyslexia or users of speech to text technologies?
    How about others with any number of cognitive disabilities? Probably not. The common societal norm is that “perceptual disability” means only blind or visually impaired. Sad.
    The combinations of disabilities and technologies are myriad and the technological combinations and methods of solutions are no less diverse.
    Most likely, the people who can benefit the most from advances in technologies will be left behind in the mad rush to use technology to remedy a non-technical problem.
    In closing, I’d like to relate a very poignant statement from one of my clients: “With all of the advances in technology, why do I feel more marginalized than ever before.”

  23. Andrew Hughes says:

    And the conservatives step in.

    I am just sick of all these politicians obsessed over DRM, and how we have to ‘step up’ our anti-piracy laws. I realize that people want money for their product, but it gets ridiculous when you can’t even play a DVD in your DVD player because they want.

    [ link ]

    That article just goes to show that they have gone too far in this DRM push. They lace their products with layer after layer of protection, treating their clientèle like criminals and not even caring. What about backing it up in case it gets damaged? DVDs are not indestructible and they know it. This is not about people stealing stuff, its about them getting more and more money from a single family, buying a single copy of a movie again and again.

    I am sick of being treated like a criminal.

  24. R. Bassett Jr.
    Given that there is the ability to purchase the “rights” to virtually anything, thus allowing the owner of that item to restrict access to it as they see fit, I wonder if the consequences of a DMCA style copyright protection scheme on both The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as the Canadian Privacy Act are being considering in this debate.

    Access to information has been the great perpetuator of freedom since the dawn of time, particularly since the advent of the printing press. By granting corporate bodies further rights to protect their investments, at the cost of the freedoms of the people of our nation, pretty is much exactly the opposite premise on which our nation was founded. I will provide a quick example of this breakdown that is currently happening,

    As of this moment, if one wishes to apply for employment with Telus, one MUST apply through their online application system. There is no other method. In order to submit an application, one MUST register their personal information on the Telus web site, where they declare that due to the server’s location being in the United States, access to your personal information is subject to US Law. One must also agree to the terms that Telus may use their information as Telus sees fit.

    This is a wonderful circumvention of the Canadian Privacy Act, that exemplifies how corporations are willing to ignore Canadian law to protect their property (in this case, your marketable personal information, including your detailed resume no less). Not only that, it is a clear example of corporations dictating employment equity to Canadians, as only those with access to the Internet and the willingness to forgo their rights may apply.

    In terms of copyright protection, who is to say that we will not be forced to turn over our personal data for purchase by corporations in the process of seeking employment or other general interactions in the future, whereby we will be waiving all rights said to be irrevocable in The Charter as well as our right to access our personal information under The Privacy Act?

    Let us not devalue the importance of personal data, which can be used in market research to squeeze more pennies from the Canadian public, when we are bickering over who should get paid for what we shove into our iPods.

  25. are we not forgetting that if it is bev oda that brings this forward as a bill that it is if not a conflict of interest on her part then it is a persevered conflict of interest . in the last election she took campaign contributions from many of the companies and organizations who want this to go thru and have been actively lobbying in parliament for it.
    bev oda took there shilling she is the last person that should put forward anything that favours them.
    this act if brought forward as mentioned would be one sided and unfair to everyone but the the people who paid in part for her election campaign.
    this is not how we enact good legislation in this country. we do not want government like they have in the usa where laws are increasingly passed for the big lobby groups without re guard for what the people want or to common sense

  26. Petition
    ["is there an online petition setup somewhere that we can sign?"]

    Ideally, you should write a letter in your own words and mail (not email) it to your MP. It carries a lot more weight than a simple petition

  27. All I want to do is, using my htpc, play the movies I purchased, without having to put a disc in the tray.
    Being able to hook up an Xbox 360HD-DVD & play purchased HD-DVDs would be nice, too.
    All this does is stifle innovation. A media centre pc’s a great device to have, but without the media to play, it’s useless.

  28. Movie Lover
    Get out of my country. The Digital Mafia(MPAA/RIAA) as no legal stand in Canada. DRM in any form is ILLEGAL and NOT WORKING AT ALL. I hope Canadian politicians will not be as esasly corrupted by the open criminal MPAA/RIAA.

    NEVER buy a product that you cannot remove the illegal DRM from it.

  29. Flawed Government
    Face it. We have a faulty government. It’s all about status. Canada at the core is an insecure society full of damaged egos. Promotion of DRM in the governments is just a byproduct of the nature of being a politician: Rich, “popular” and desperate for votes.

    Politicians should be poor.

  30. dmca
    I hope canada brings in nothing compared to the dmca. I agree canada (we) need more laws in some areas regarding copyrighting.But even ifwe stiffen out laws and we even have a dmca who besideds canada will follow those rules. I have a dmca on my back right now because of a texture from a game. Did i steal it no will they answer questions for me in regards to it NO. If anything my copyright certificate means nothing and they want me to sign off and have nothing on the paper with the words mentioning\” i would like to get help in canada but if i cant\” .In my opinion in regards to the problem im having its another american game (which implaying) and so its there rules and they are not in consideration to listen follow or care about our copyrights. This dmca has no phone number so you got to call the same place as the ppl your having problems with and yes i really believe while your in a office next door to a company u will go against them.Not likely and secondly they do not post anyway of contacting them except there fax or in writing.
    But they dont mind taking canadian funds for the stuff just not allow no canadian laws so hell no i disagree with dmca

  31. NDP Helped boot a MPAA supporter
    Just remmember folks the NDP helped get a mpaa liberal supporter booted in a very urban city like toronto.

    That should be a wake up call to the PC party and liberals that pandering to american interests just won’t fly when it comes to the way stuff is. The peeps that left the CRIA like bryan adams and a few other major ones to promote touring ( think of the rolling stones making a hundred million ) and allowing free downlaoding
    as a way to promote those tours is perfect and the only way it will fly.

  32. Does DMCA Apply to Canadians?
    I was wondering if a blog in Canada puts up a photo of a U.S. artist and that artists’ lawyers contact you to remove it claiming DMCA. Do you have to comply?