Yesterday's reform focused on one key limitation in the format shifting provision, namely the odd limitation of the format shifting provision to videocassettess. Today's reform picks up on what will be a consistent theme throughout this series – the subordination of any consumer rights to the digital lock. Indeed, virtually all the so-called rights in Bill C-61 come with a big asterisk since the content distributor or creators (typically distributor) gets to determine whether Canadians can actually take advantage of these new rights. If the distributor or creator chooses to impose a digital lock on their song, video, photograph, book, or other content, the consumer rights disappear. This is in marked contrast to other user rights in the Copyright Act that set limits on what users can do (it is fair dealing, not free dealing), but do not leave absolute control in the hands of the distributor or creator.
Industry Minister Jim Prentice only occassionally acknowledges this limitation. For example, in his recent Kingston Whig-Standard letter to the editor, he noted that
Our government is the first to allow Canadians to record their TV and radio shows to enjoy at different times – without infringing copyright. Our reform will also permit consumers to copy music onto devices such as MP3 players, and to copy books, newspapers, videos and photos into different formats.
Yet he failed to admit that these new rights are subject to the core limitation that any circumvention of a digital lock disqualifies the format shifting. He also fails to note that his government is the first to restrict Canadians in such an absolute manner. The necessary reform here is the removal of Section 29.21(c) which may make these new rights largely ineffective in the digital world.