Bill C-61 has the potential to impede access for all Canadians; however, one group may be particularly hard hit by widespread DRM use and the bill's anti-circumvention provisions. Those with print disabilities (called perceptual disabilities in the Copyright Act) rely on new voice technologies to gain access to works that they are physically unable to view. DRM can be used to limit or eliminate the use of technologies to read text aloud, thereby rendering it inaccessible for a segment of the population. Indeed, for those that think this is a mere fairy tale, one of the better known instances of "read aloud" restrictions involved the Adobe eReader, which restricted the reading aloud function for Alice in Wonderland.
The Copyright Act contains a specific provision to address access for the print disabled. Section 32(1) provides that:
It is not an infringement of copyright for a person, at the request of a person with a perceptual disability, or for a non-profit organization acting for his or her benefit, to
(b) translate, adapt or reproduce in sign language a literary or dramatic work, other than a cinematographic work, in a format specially designed for persons with a perceptual disability; or
(c) perform in public a literary or dramatic work, other than a cinematographic work, in sign language, either live or in a format specially designed for persons with a perceptual disability.
Bill C-61 includes an anti-circumvention exception for perceptual disabilities that seeks to mirror Section 32. However, the provision suffers from the same shortcoming as the privacy exception. While there is an exception for the act of circumvention, access to devices that can be used to circumvent again comes with the restriction that a person can offer circumvention devices or services only "to the extent that the services, technology, device or component do not unduly impair the technological measure."
The notion of not unduly impairing the TPM is even more non-sensical in this context given that the whole point of circumventing is to provide access to the content for those with perceptual disabilities. The content will obviously be in the clear since that is what is needed to provide the necessary access. The limitation on devices and services here makes absolutely no sense unless the real aim to stop those with perceptual disabilities from obtaining access. Not only should the "unduly impair" wording be removed, but the bill should place a positive obligation on those companies that use DRM to circumvent their technological measure where requested to do so for access for those with perceptual disabilities.