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.


  1. Format shifting should be extended to any media you own. No limits on number of backups, shifts, copies, as long as you are not doing it with the purpose of infringing copyright.

  2. no shifting limits
    In order to get in line with “new technologies”, there can be NO LIMITS on personal use. If you purchased some media, it is yours to experience, using whatever tools you have at your disposal. Ideas like “copying” and “shifting” are even too limiting. When it comes to media of ALL TYPES, and modern technology, trying to define ANYTHING about how the process works, between what you buy, and what you experience, is placing an unjust limitation on the FAIR USE principal. We need to clarify the purpose / concept of fair use, and either strike it down, or properly enshrine it. Any specifics mentioned in law will become as obsolete every next 5 years, as mentioning VHS rights is in the current proposal. DVD is already falling to HDDVD and BlueRay, and what’s next is anybody’s guess. A law that tries to make these guesses is NOT READY to “bring us in line with new technologies.”

  3. Obsolete by design
    Any legislation that specifies one or more storage technologies is obsolete by design.

    The technolodies for data storage are constantly in flux; it wasn’t that long ago that we had cd’s and laserdiscs at the cusp of technology, then dvd’s now blurays. Given the research advances on 3d storage arrays, how long before we’re getting our media on little cubes. This is a moving target, pinning legislation to specific techs just means it will be out of date within a decade.

    This is the kind of thing politicians are usually good at. However, with tinfoil hat firmly in place, perhaps there is intent here to bake in obsolescence.

    This would give the industries a guaranteed opportunity within ten years to wax idiotic once more about how out of date Canada’s IP laws are, and allow them, pending an amicable gov’t, to crack open this legislation again, if there’s anything more they want or any fair use “loopholes” they want closed.

  4. Very telling
    The lack of a right to format-shift or back-up DVDs, and the potential damage award against people who do so, is the most telling for me in this Bill.

    It tells me that the content owners consulted don’t want me to protect my DVDs from damage (probably so I’ll have to buy new copies when my 3yr old damages them) and they don’t want me using one copy on multiple devices (probably so they can sell me a new copy for each device I want to watch it on … I wonder how many people would have purchased DVD copies of their favorite VHS movies if they could have easily converted the VHS to DVD?)

  5. License
    The problem with this is what the ‘industry’ wants us to believe. If you take the BSA (Business Software Alliance), for example, they lead people to think that you’ve purchased a license to view the content. In that order, a license scheme does not allow for transfer unless specified. I’m not sure if this has ever seen any legislation or litigation, as it appears to be corporate generated garbage, but this how they think.

    It can only get worse as there many corporate suits that would love to charge a dollar every time you change the channel on your T.V.

  6. Anonymous says:

    C-61 aside, is there any way to lay down serious penalties to the big media that are trying to destroy civil liberties EVERYWHERE in the world, like what just happened in Sweden? We can’t possibly win the war when the best weapon is simply ‘refuse to buy their products’.

  7. Minister sez vs C-61 sez
    Although the minister might *say* you can format shift videocassettes, the bill as written disagrees with him.

    The bill does not mention ‘digital locks’ – it refers to “Technological Measures”. And *that* term would almost certainly include Macrovision copy protection. You would need to circumvent this in order to make a copy of almost any purchased videocassette.

    Once you step into circumvention, formatting shifting your purchased videocassettes to your iPod would almost certainly trigger the $20,000 damage level were this to come to a court.

    The idea that the minister in question is putting forward a bill with specific technical language that he himself apparently does not understand should be a significant concern. It strongly suggests that he is almost completely uninvolved in the creation of this bill.

  8. Criminal for Watching DVDs

    Watch a DVD on FreeBSD or Linux? Yep — you\’re a criminal.

    Avoid the security hole known as Sony\’s rootkit on CDs? Yep — you\’re a criminal. [2]

    Copy your store-bought copy of Star Wars to your iPod or Cowon media player? Yep — you\’re a criminal.

    De-mangle your copy protected e-book to read in PDF format? Yep — you\’re a criminal.

    Unlock your cell phone to make it more useful? Yep — you\’re a criminal.

    Watch a DVD you purchased in Europe on your DVD player? Yep — you\’re a criminal.

    Update some of your old laser discs to a modern format for watching? Yep — you\’re a criminal.

    Make no mistake people — this isn\’t about the artists and never has been. How much of the proceeds of a CD goes to the artist? How much does the sale of Citizen Kane get back to the artists who created it? How much of every thirty dollar hardcover goes directly to the author?

    This is all about having the consumer pay money again and again and again. For what? So an absolutely ignorant company such as Sony can get stronger and further flush our rights and freedoms down the toilet?

    Way to go corporate America! You have just made teaching our future generations even more costly than it already is. Don’t photocopy those Mozart music scores! Don’t make handouts of Darwin’s work from a book!

    Support the artists who are actively fighting to get the power back into the hands of those that created the work [3]. Please.

    [1] [ link ]
    [2] [ link ]
    [3] Cory Doctorow ( [ link ] ) and Trent Reznor ( [ link ] ) come to mind immediately. They do it well and do it properly.

  9. Makes no sense
    It makes no sense, in the digital age, to have a provision in the bill to allow for format shifting from DVD to Video Cassette. Who the hell uses VHS anymore? This is a useless gesture.

    People will format shift regardless if the law allows us or not. There is no way that they can enforce this. There isn’t a police officer in every home, and there is no way to track if someone had copied a DVD onto the computer. NONE. This is totally unenforceable.

  10. Makes no sense
    Indeed Mark! One of the most important rules of leadership is “don’t command what you know won’t be followed.”

  11. Delicious Recipe
    I wonder how this Bill would have been written if the words “sound/video recording” were replaced by “delicious recipe”? How much time does it take to write a song compared to creating a recipe? Oh, I guess it’s mostly women that do, and freely share, that sort of thing. Too much copyright spoils the creative broth.

  12. R. Bassett Jr. says:

    DVD format shifting
    I do this. It’s handy. Technically, I only have one copy of each of my DVDs on my server so that anyone in my house can view the movies from their own computer. However, I have also format shifted some of them to watch on my Nintendo DS game machine, using a 3rd party movie player adapter. It’s kind of neat to use the NDS this way, as it’s a VERY small video player and game system for my daughter!

    Anyhow, all of this will be illegal, even though I have spent thousands of dollars on hardware, software, electricity, and training to be able to make use of the “digital age” that’s been pushed down my throat since I was in elementry school. Sure, I really enjoy computer hardware and what not, but of all the things I *can* do with it, this bill will make all of the things I actually *do* do with illegal. And why? To make big media companies more money. That’s it.

    If we let this bill become law, we’re all going to have to “cleanse our digital colons” and take a huge step backward in terms of sharing our culture with eachother as well as with our children. I do not believe this is what our society has been working toward ever, especially since the end of WWII.

    We’ve lost all hope of being world leaders on so many fronts, especially in technology. Now would be a great time for Canadians to rediscover thier purpose on this Earth and assert their power as nation of individuals united rather than distracted. We can, we should, and I hope we will put an end to the corporate take over of human rights on this planet. If we silently did that and nothing else, we’ll have touched the lives of billions now and in the future. Earth and our sun will not always be here, but if we use the freedom and power of nations like our own there is no reason humans cannot be around to watch the universe grow old and dark – long after our Earth has been forgotten. Believe it or not, our ultimate destiny as a species hinges heavy of the daily freedoms of the “free nations”. We Canadians must not let that future be erroded, bit by bit. That is our duty to those who are not here in our neighbourhoods to protect, but who do so desperately need our assistance.

    Protect our collect freedom. Take bill C61 down.

  13. R. Bassett
    Wow..great post R. Bassett! Very uplifting and to the point, without assigning blame to this party or that party. It is a shame that for every 10 of us techsavvy geeks (or just those of us with a good dose of common sense), there are a million sheeple who will bend over ass backwards and give the Big Media Hogs anything they want at the trough. I am getting the feeling that Big Media KNOWS they are on the way out unless they take drastic steps, such as suing everyone and their grandma out of house and home (yeah, that even includes dead Uncle Frank in his coffin 6 ft under).

    We should tell Prentice that if he intends to steal our rights away, we’ll string him up at the nearest tree and let our kids go at him with broomsticks and rotten tomatoes.

  14. Resurrection of outdated and obsolete technology so Canadians can time-shift? It’s nearly impossible nowadays to find a blank VHS cassette (new) in stores. Everything is recordable DVD.

    Next thing you know, due to the force of legislation, 8-tracks will be making a comeback.

    This is just another fiasco to make us a laughing stock in the eyes of the world.

  15. Michael Orban says:

    What ever happpened to the levy writable
    If I recall correctly, we as Canadians already pay dues to the “?” when we purchase blank AUDIO CD’s. What ever happened to that program and the money collected? Wasn’t it supposed to go to artists to compensate for the fact that their album may end up on one of these blank audio CD’s ?

    We as Canadians need to ask ourselves how we got to this point. Many of the proposed initiatives in bill C-61 border on “ridiculous”. Now how did an individual who would make such proposals end up as the Minister of Industry. I realize they are appointed positions. Perhaps before it is made official, some sort of standardized test must be taken (and passed). That may keep some ignorance out of cabinet, but not by much.

    As Canadians we should be terrified that our MINISTER OF INDUSTRY, would be of the mindset to propose such ridiculous pieces of legislation. Now I know this is a huge issue, and it must be opposed. Bigger than Bill C-61, this person is in the greatest position of power over industry for the entire country. Any Canadian who depends on earning a living to survive should be very concerned over what this puzzle factory could churn out next?

  16. Kent Cavaghan says:

    Seems to me that this has exactly the same stink as the Avro Arrow.

    Thanks to R Basset – I have been unsuccessful in trying to explain to several people why this is so important. I will be directing them to your post and hope .