Many readers will know that over the summer I launched a 30 Days of DRM series that focused on the concerns associated with DRM and anti-circumvention. Day Seven called for DRM-free library deposits. Well, one down and 29 to go – my weekly Law Bytes column (Ottawa Citizen version, homepage version, BBC international version) highlights recent changes to Canada's legal deposit regulations designed to accommodate the emergence of online publications and to address the DRM issue. Canada introduced mandatory legal deposit in 1953, requiring publishers to provide copies of all published books to the National Library of Canada. With little fanfare, the rules for legal deposit have gradually been adapted to the Internet and digital technologies. In 2004, the government granted the Library and Archives Canada, the successor the National Library, the right to sample web pages in an effort to preserve noteworthy Canadian websites. The Internet sampling provision has been used to gather copies of political party websites as well as a handful of notable blogs.
As of January 1st of this year, the rules have changed yet again as Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda introduced new regulations to accommodate the emergence of online publications and to address the concerns raised by digital technologies that potentially impede access. The latest changes will require many online-only publishers to begin submitting their publications to the LAC. The rules disappointingly stop short of requiring all publishers to submit electronic versions of paper-based documents, however. Such a requirement should be considered in the future to facilitate the creation of a national digital library.
The new rules also address mounting concern about the potential impact of DRM to deny future generations access to the publications in digital form. DRM has been viewed as a threat by many within the library community, who fear that they and their patrons may literally be locked out of digital works as DRM systems are used to restrict otherwise legitimate access or become obsolete. In response, Ottawa has implicitly acknowledged that the DRM-related concerns necessitate legal intervention. The regulations now require publishers to decrypt encrypted data contained in a publication and to remove or disable systems designed to restrict or limit access to the publication before submitting it to the LAC. Moreover, publishers are required to also provide the LAC with a copy of the software necessary to access the publication, the technical information necessary for access, and any "meta-data" associated with the electronic publication.
These regulations mark the first time that the Canadian government has stepped in to protect the public interest against the potential negative consequences of DRM. Given these new legal deposit program provisions, thousands of libraries across Canada may soon demand similar protections for their electronic publication collections, which now account for as much as 25 percent of library budgets.