Prentice’s DMCA Deception

With only two weeks left in the House of Commons calendar until the summer recess (technically the House could sit for an additional two weeks but few expect that to happen), Industry Minister Jim Prentice is likely to introduce his new copyright bill next week or during the first week of June.  While Prentice continues to claim that he is actively working on a bill that meets the needs of creators and consumers, the talk in Ottawa is that the bill is done. The DMCA provisions that generated so much opposition last December are still there as Prentice is seemingly unwilling to take a stand against the U.S. pressure by siding with Canadian business, consumers, and education groups.

How will Prentice attempt to sell the Canadian DMCA?  Word is that the six months since the initial bill was shelved has yielded some changes, most notably reforms such as the legalization of time shifting (ie. recording television shows with a VCR/PVR) and possibly device shifting (ie. transfer a song from a store bought CD to an iPod). 

Neither of these provisions come close to meeting the concerns of the many groups that have spoken out on copyright over the past six months.  Moreover, the Prentice Canadian DMCA is still likely to render Canadians infringers where they seek to use these new exceptions in the digital realm.  For example, last week there were reports that NBC inserted copy-controls into some of their television programming that rendered Windows Vista Media Center users unable to record television shows.  Under the Prentice plan, users that seek to circumvent the digital lock to record the television show (as he will claim they can) will still violate the law.  The same is true for copy-controlled CDs – try circumventing the copy-controls to shift the music onto your iPod and you're violating the law even with a device-shifting provision.

If the exceptions are undermined by the Canadian DMCA provisions, why is Prentice throwing them in?  The answer is pretty clear.  Prentice hopes that the media coverage will focus on these new "modernizing" provisions that he will claim benefit consumers, rather than on the DMCA-style anti-circumvention provisions that will lock down consumer products, harm research and security, raise privacy concerns, and create a restrictive new legal environment. 

With the bill seemingly only days away, now is the time to again tell Prentice and your local MP that Canadians will not be so easily deceived.  Countries such as New Zealand and Israel have recently enacted legislation with far more balance than what Prentice has in mind.  It only takes a few seconds to send an email to Prentice, the Prime Minister, and your local MP, letting them know that Canadians won't be deceived by a Canadian DMCA and that Canadian copyright reform should reflect fair copyright principles (and after you click send, print out the email and drop it in the mail without a stamp to House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, K1A0A6).

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