The digital lock provisions have quickly emerged as the most contentious part of Bill C-32, the new copyright bill. This comes as little surprise, given the decision to bring back the digital lock approach from C-61 virtually unchanged. The mounting public concern with the digital lock provisions (many supporters of the bill have expressed serious misgivings about the digital lock component) has led to many questions as well as attempts to characterize public concerns as myths. In effort to set the record straight, I have compiled 32 questions and answers about the digital lock provisions found in C-32. The result is quite lengthy, so I will divide the issues into five separate posts over the next five days: (1) general questions about the C-32 approach; (2) the exceptions in C-32; (3) the missing exceptions; (4) the consumer provisions; and (5) the business provisions. For those that want it all in a single package, I've posted the full series as PDF download.
Before getting into the 32 questions, it is worth answering the most basic question – what are anti-circumvention or digital lock provisions? The short answer is that they are provisions that grant legal protection to technological protection measures (TPMs). In plainer English, traditional copyright law grants creators a basket of exclusive rights in their work. TPMs or digital locks (such as copy-controls on CDs, DVDs, or e-books) effectively provide a second layer of protection by making it difficult for most people to copy or sometimes access works in digital format. Anti-circumvention legislation creates a third layer of protection by making it an infringement to simply pick or break the digital lock (in fact, it even goes further by making it an infringement to make available tools or devices that can be used to pick the digital lock). Under the Bill C-32, it would be an infringement to circumvent a TPM even if the intended use of the underlying work would not constitute traditional copyright infringement.
The C-32 Approach
This section features answers to the following questions:
- Isn't the C-32 digital lock approach simply the required implementation to comply with the WIPO Internet treaties?
- Penalties are reduced for individuals who circumvent for personal purposes. Doesn't this solve the problem?
- The digital lock provisions in C-32 appear to distinguish between copy controls and access controls. Isn't that enough to address concerns about the bill's impact on fair dealing?
- Are the digital lock provisions in C-32 constitutional?
- Is it true that C-32 requires teachers and students to destroy some digital lessons 30 days after the course concludes?
- Is it true that C-32 requires librarians to ensure that inter-library digital loans self-destruct within five days of first use?
- The U.S. has a regular review of new exceptions every three years. Does Canada plan the same?