CNA Expresses Concern With Press Freedoms Under C-61

The Canadian Newspaper Association has issued a position paper with its views on C-61.  While the paper addresses several issues, its concerns with the anti-circumvention provisions are the most striking.  The CNA notes that:

Bill C-61 makes it an offence to bypass any technological protection used on Internet sites. This is not normally an issue for newspaper public sites, but might apply to sites requiring registration, and to paid archive services. While this is positive for rightsholders seeking to protect content from unauthorized access, it could have implications on newsgathering, news reporting, and press freedom broadly, as is shown in the discussion below.

Under section 29.2 of the current legislation, there is a fair dealing defence to copyright infringement for news reporting. As drafted, Bill C-61 throws up roadblocks. For instance, if documents are encrypted, it will be illegal to break the encryption. This means that journalists who come across or are sent electronic documents (for example from a whistleblower) may be unable to use them without incurring very significant liability, even though there are no barriers on using the same materials in print format. It might also mean that citing video or other content from a digitally protected work (say, a DVD movie in which a newsmaker once appeared) could incur liability.
These are the same kinds of concerns that consumers have expressed and it is good to see that the CNA recognizes that the anti-circumvention provisions could have an adverse effect on press freedoms.  Its proposed solutions (which it describes as minor amendments) are in-line with the fair copyright principles that I've articulated in the past:

  • The prohibition on anti-circumvention software must be modified so that it can lawfully be manufactured, imported or provided if its use will be confined to acts that Bill C-61 expressly authorizes
  • The use of such software must be permitted if the circumvention does not infringe copyright. That is already built into some parts of Bill C-61 and extending it to fair dealing activity does not pose a serious risk to copyright owners. At a minimum, an amendment is needed to cover investigative journalism, by exempting any circumvention needed for news reporting as allowed for by section 29.2 of the current Act. This is easy to draft and entirely compatible with provisions already in Bill C-61, such as those for the perceptually disabled.


  1. Doesn’t that amendment make the TPM provisions kind of pointless? What’s the purpose of making something that’s already a crime (copyright infringement) MORE of a crime?

  2. C-61 allows criminals to hide
    Case in point. A criminal or anyone who wants to hide their activities just has to put digital locks on all of their electronic documents (and shred the hard copy). In order to discover the wrong doing you would be quilty of not only picking the lock (once for each infringement) but for also having the means to pick the lock (my guess would once for each tool in you possession). Imagine what the impact of a corporation or government charging a whistle blower and the press with copyright infringement will have.

  3. re: criminals can’t hide
    (un)fortunately, depending on how you look at it, they built in provisions for just this sort of thing. Law enforcement is allowed to have and make use of software to get around digital locks if they need to 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    Bill C-61 isn’t going to stop people from breaking the law. The idea that outlawing distribution of technologies that can be used to break encryption that protects copyrighted works will somehow make it harder for people who are intent on infringing on copyright to do so is entirely delusional… the people who will actually be most impacted by it are really just those who might want to copy something for their personal and private use – a purpose that is supposedly expressly granted by the bill, but in almost the same breath it makes illegal the very tools that a person might use to accomplish that end. The argument that the anticircumvention restrictions only apply in the case where digital locks are present is meaningless because if this bill were to pass, practically every media provider would want to lock down their content from then on just so that they could strongarm the end user into using _their_ products just to do something like transferring a song on one of their newly purchased CD’s to their iPod. This sort of vendor lock-in spells nothing but bad news for the consumer, and I seriously hope this bill is shot down.

  5. Leif Thande says:

    From the article: \\\”there is going to be strong resistance to key elements of the Bill. There will also be a powerful consumer backlash, harnessed largely by Professor Michael Geist (University of Ottawa).\\\”

    So, how does it feel Michael ?

  6. Leif Thande says:

    From the article: \\\”there is going to be strong resistance to key elements of the Bill. There will also be a powerful consumer backlash, harnessed largely by Professor Michael Geist (University of Ottawa).\\\”

    So, how does it feel Michael ?

  7. Locked documents
    So hypothetically, a document which is password protected via MS Excel, Word, PPT, is opened in OpenOffice and the security is ignored by the program, it’s OK because the TPM is not “effective. Correct?
    Or the program in infringing. I don’t think this would apply.
    Would a post like this which lets people know there are commonly accepted security features which are ineffective be breaching any of the proposed porvisions?

  8. BCDD and music lover says:

    If photographers can do it for taking picture of your wedding.
    If you don\’t get them to sign a contract that there yours

    Guess I should be able to do the same when I record someone ..?

  9. BCDD and music lover says:

    RE: Photos
    I would not really be a vulture but I am sure someone in the CRIA
    would love to do the same to someone that they just recorded