The Bill C-11 committee conducts its final witness hearing on copyright reform today and not a moment too soon. Based on the demands from music industry witnesses this week, shutting down the Internet must surely be coming next. The week started with the Canadian Independent Music Association seeking changes to the enabler provision that would create liability risk for social networking sites, search engines, blogging platforms, video sites, and many other websites featuring third party contributions. It also called for a new iPod tax, an extension in the term of copyright, a removal of protections for user generated content, parody, and satire, as well as an unlimited statutory damage awards and a content takedown system with no court oversight. CIMA was followed by ADISQ, which wants its own lawful access approach that would require Internet providers to disclose subscriber information without court oversight based on allegations of infringement (the attack on fair dealing is covered in a separate post).
Yesterday the Canadian Music Publishers Association added to the demand list by pulling out the SOPA playbook and calling for website blocking provisions. Implausibly describing the demand as a “technical amendment”, the CMPA argued that Internet providers take an active role in shaping the Internet traffic on their systems and therefore it wants to “create a positive obligation for service providers to prevent the use of their services to infringe copyright by offshore sites.” If the actual wording is as broad as the proposal (the CMPA acknowledged that it has an alternate, more limited version), this would open the door to blocking thousands of legitimate sites. The CMPA admitted that the proposal bears a similarity to SOPA and PIPA, but argued that it was narrower than the controversial U.S. bills. While that may technically be true – SOPA envisioned DNS blocking and targeting advertising and payment networks – the website blocking provisions look a lot like the legislation that sparked massive public protest.
The net effect of the music industry demands represents more than a stunning overhaul of Bill C-11 as it is effectively calling for a radical reform of the Internet in Canada. Taken together, the proposals would require Internet providers to block access to foreign sites, take down content without court oversight, and disclose subscriber information without a warrant. On top of those demands, the industry also wants individuals to face unlimited statutory damages and pay a new iPod tax. It also wants an expanded enabler provision that is so broadly defined as potentially capture social networking sites and search engines.
When Bill C-32 was first introduced, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore famously characterized opponents as radical extremists. As the hearing on the bill nears its conclusion, it has become apparent that the only radical extremism are music industry proposals that are so over-the-top that they have managed to make the digital lock rules look tame by comparison (which may have been the intent). For Canadian concerned with copyright and the Internet, this really is the final call as the bill will go to clause-by-clause review next week. Tell your MP and members of the C-11 committee to reject the industry’s extreme demands and to ensure that the bill is balanced by adding the Canadian Library Association’s suggested technical amendment to digital locks.