61 Reforms to C-61, Day 2: Format Shifting Limited to Videocassettes

One of Bill C-61's "consumer-oriented provisions" (as emphasized by Industry Minister Jim Prentice) is the arrival of format shifting.  Prentice's opening remarks focused on how consumers will be able to legally "format shift" music, photographs, and books under the new bill.  Yet the format shifting provisions for video are nothing short of bizarre given Prentice's claim that the bill is designed to "bring us in line with new technologies."  The bill provides Canadians with the right to copy a video yet limits this right to videocassettes (additional limitations include requirements that user did not borrow or rent the video, owns the medium or device onto which the video is being shifted, doesn't break a digital lock to make the copy, makes no more than one copy, doesn't give away the copy, and only uses the copy for private purposes). 

Leaving aside the long list of limitations, the very notion of limiting format shifting to analog technologies reinforces the notion that the bill gives Canadian consumers analog rights, while the copyright lobby gets digital rights.  Given the ubiquity of DVDs, a format shifting provision in 2008 should surely give Canadians the right to shift their store-bought DVDs to their personal computers or video iPods.  Indeed, it is absurd that the bill leaves far larger potential damage awards for Canadians that format shift their own DVDs than it does for people who download the same content from peer-to-peer networks.  This reform should be a no-brainer – the limitation to videocassettes in Section 29.21 should be expanded to video in analog or digital form.

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