Copyright Debate Hits the House of Commons: Opposition Won't Support C-11 Due to Digital Locks

Thursday October 20, 2011
Copyright dominated debate at the House of Commons on Tuesday as Bill C-11 was the primary subject of debate. Digital locks was one of the most discussed issues (new levies were the other), with the main opposition parties lining up to oppose the bill due to the digital lock provisions.  For example, the NDP's Charlie Angus stated:

Unless the digital lock provisions change, the New Democratic Party will not support the bill because it is not balanced.

Liberal Industry critic Geoff Regan stated:

the Liberal Party will not support Bill C-11. The digital lock provisions in this bill are far too strict and they override virtually every other right that is in the legislation.

The Green Party's Elizabeth May added during the debate:

The Minister of Canadian Heritage has told us he is open to change. I am certainly very concerned with the concerns of the Canadian Library Association that digital locks will impede its ability to use materials in the public interest.

Over the course of several hours, many MPs raised concerns about digital locks, U.S. influence on the copyright reform process, and the reality that the Canadian digital lock approach extends far beyond what is required by the WIPO Internet treaties.

The discussion also featured some noteworthy comments from Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, who admitted:

Bill C-61, as it turned out, was not the balance that Canadians were looking for. We think this legislation achieves the balance that Canadians have come to expect. We tabled Bill C-61, there was the fall campaign, and then we came back. We re-engaged Canadians from the beginning. We went back to square one. We did unprecedented consultation on this legislation. We heard from thousands of Canadians in the process. We went across the country to town halls and we did open, online consultation. We arrived at Bill C-32.

It is good that Moore acknowledges the opposition to Bill C-61, yet what Moore did not say was that the primary concern then - as now - was on the digital lock rules. Those have remained unchanged from Bill C-61, so the government may have heard from Canadians on the issue, but it did not listen. Industry Minister Christian Paradis offered the standard lines on copyright reform, but had a pair of puzzling comments. For example, Paradis stated:

Many products such as DVDs do not have digital locks and the market is doing its job in that respect

I'm not sure what Paradis is thinking of, but DVDs - which typically contain both region coding and anti-copying locks - still have digital locks.  Further, Paradis later stated:

The current legislation deals with VHS and other technologies that are no longer even on the market or being used by consumers

This too is inaccurate. The current legislation does not deal with the VHS or other forms of television program recording.