61 Reforms to C-61, Day 3: Format Shifting Subject to Digital Lock Provision

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.


  1. This is the key point that makes Prentice a liar. This is the key point that shows the bill is bad, one-sided, anti-copyright, and instead for permanent ownership, a theft from the public of their right to have a public domain of digital works.

  2. Colin McInnes says:

    providing a service as well
    Not just breaking digital locks is needed. We also need the access to the TOOLS to be able to do so. Even if consumers were allowed the rights to break locks, I would imagine writing/providing the software to do so would be considered a “service”, and so would still be liable for damages. A chilling factor on anyone who wanted to write or describe methods for breaking the locks.

    Remember the CSS fiasco in the US, where even people linking to websites selling T-shirts with the decoding key were being threatened…

  3. A work around says:

    Research and Security
    there is now a idea i had, if you are working on such tools in research or security in the advent of “hacking tools” then this is permitted , the question then as i read it is that i am also allowed to publish my findings,
    then how can they enforce the use of said “research and security tools”

    The answer is they can’t

  4. DRM
    I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but, DRM should be looked at first. DRM or ‘digital locks’ have been shown in the past to be a best, an inconvenience and at worst a privacy compromising tool.

    – limitations on how many times you can install software
    – silent installation of drivers, software, system entries
    – privileges given the highest priority without the user’s knowledge
    – backdoor ports open to attack
    – disruptive behavior with security software

    To me, these should be deemed as illegal activities on the part of content holders. But no one mentions these dangers anywhere in these debates; or at least not addressed as a major issue.

  5. In order to bypass the Macrovision protection for my DVD recorder, so that an analog RCA (yellow coloured cable) video stream containing Macrovision protection can be recorded to DVD, I need to modify the firmware with a hex editor. Does this mean hex editors would be illegal under this law? And to some extent, regular text editors, if you’re able to interpret the binary file correctly? Gee, the form I’m typing in right now is a text editor. Would that be illegal too?

  6. Brendan Moore says:

    No Rights for Consumers
    This is exactly what I’ve been bringing up first and foremost with my friends and family when they ask me “What’s so bad about C-61?”

    Prentice is trying to trick us, plain and simple. He points out all these great benefits for consumers: format shifting, time shifting, personal backups and limitation of damages. What he doesn’t note is that these are all conditional on not breaking any digital locks. So what will happen? All the content owners will of course apply the simplest most rudimentary digital locks to their media. That way consumers have none of these rights, and none of the damage limitations, opening the doors to those oh-so-attractive lawsuit/extortion revenue streams.

    29.21(1)(c), 29.22(1)(c), 29.23(1)(b) need to be removed from the bill. 41.1(1) needs to include provisions for circumvention for these rights, as well as the ability to make and distribute software/tools to do so. TO this end, C-61 section 30.(1) subsection (1.4) must be modified to exclude the criminalization of circumvention for personal use and our consumer rights.

    All the exposure the average Canadian has is the soundbites they get on the news. Sadly, we don’t see enough opposition to the bill in the mainstream, let alone them being given time to adequately explain the flaws and point out the loopholes in the bill that will essentially destroy fair use as we know it.

    I hope this changes over the course of the summer.


  7. Jimmy Holiday says:

    Finally got a response from Josee Verner. Still waiting from my MP Joe McGuire.

    > Subject: RE: Please Stand Against the New Copyright Bill
    > Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2008 11:56:06 -0400
    > From:
    > To: jam*******
    > The Government of Canada has introduced Bill C-61, (An Act to Amend the Copyright Act). The proposed legislation is a made-in-Canada approach that balances the needs of Canadian consumers and copyright owners, promoting culture, innovation and competition in the digital age.
    > What does Bill C-61 mean to Canadians?
    > Specifically, it includes measures that would:
    > * expressly allow you to record TV shows for later viewing; copy legally purchased music onto other devices, such as MP3 players or cell phones; make back-up copies of legally purchased books, newspapers, videocassettes and photographs onto devices you own; and limit the ‘statutory damages’ a court could award for all private use copyright infringements;
    > * implement new rights and protections for copyright holders, tailored to the Internet, to encourage participation in the online economy, as well as stronger legal remedies to address Internet piracy
    > * clarify the roles and responsibilities of Internet Service Providers related to the copyright content flowing over their network facilities
    > * provide photographers with the same rights as other creators
    > What Bill C-61 does not do:
    > * it would not empower border agents to seize your iPod or laptop at border crossings, contrary to recent public speculation
    > What this Bill is not:
    > * it is not a mirror image of U.S. copyright laws. Our Bill is made-in-Canada with different exceptions for educators, consumers and others and brings us into line with more than 60 countries including Japan, France, Germany and Australia
    > Bill C-61 was introduced in the Commons on June 12, 2008 by Industry Minister Jim Prentice and Heritage Minister Josée Verner.
    > For more information, please visit the Copyright Reform Process website at
    > Thank you for sharing your views on this important matter.
    > The Honourable Josée Verner¸
    > Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages and Minister for La Francophonie
    > The Honourable Jim Prentice
    > Minister of Industry

  8. Maynard G. Krebs says:

    Region Coded DVD’s
    Say you’ve lived in Europe for a year or two (not uncommon if your company posts you someplace) and you’ve accumulated a small collection of Region 2 encoded DVD’s.

    You move back to Canada without the 240v 50Hz DVD player that won’t work here, but you do bring your collection of French and German DVD videos with you.

    A standard FutureShop dvd player won’t play the Region 2 disks you own, so you buy a brand of DVD player that is hackable and remove the region restriction on the player, and then you play your personal copies of your DVDs for your own enjoyment.

    You’ve now violated about 4 provisions of C-61.

    Ditto if you are frequent traveler with a laptop computer. After playing a few DVD’s you bought on your last trip to Paris, your laptop DVD drive won’t play anything because Hollywood and the hardware manufacturers have colluded to make this happen – bit gets set in the firmware of the drive and now you have to get a new internal laptop DVD drive (at replacement part prices).

    If it wasn’t the US movie industry behind this, the US Justice Department would be after them and the hardware manufacturers like Eliot Ness after Capone.

    Why do we have to be lapdogs to the US?

  9. Anonymous says:

    could there be price issues if unlocking is allowed? I’m sure the industry will make sure that their stuff costs the same in all formats

  10. Any format that isn’t an open one, is inherently protected. It’s a form of digital rights management that prevents the user from extracting the data and using it in another program.

    Breaking the file format to extract the data in any file format that isn’t exposed publicly means that even reading a Microsoft Word .Doc file into an non-Word program is breaking the rights management. At least until a court or the law is clearly written to define DRM boundaries.

    So, any hex editing is probably a breach of the DRM, otherwise any DRM could be broken by hex editing, or a program that automates that hex editing. But, hex editing is what any DRM removal program does, since all of our bits are formed in bytes, and hex is the fundamental formatting we use to view it.

    I could see hex editing of VHS macromedia protected tapes being illegal, since otherwise there is no protection at all. And, if that hex editing is illegal on such a simple case, then it must be illegal on more rigidly protected systems as well.

    Any document or database file that is in a proprietary format is probably protected from that same hex editing for the same reason. This is part of the usual project creep where they define something in law against “DRM”, only to have it apply to 99% of the worlds data.

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