The Government’s Standard Form Response to C-32 Letters

Government MPs have begun responding to constituent letters on Bill C-32.  The current letter is very detailed with a lengthy discussion on the merits of the bill.  A sample is posted below:

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding Bill C-32, our government’s proposal to update the Copyright Act.

The Copyright Act has not been amended since 1997 – before the age of iPods, personal video recorders and smart phones.  In Canada, the outdated approach of the Copyright Act is stifling creativity and innovation, failing to recognize and support the various ways Canadian consumers use copyrighted materials every day and is not providing the protections that content creators such as songwriters and performers deserve.  Internationally, Canada has been placed on piracy watch lists and our intellectual property protections are compared with those of countries like China, Russia and Dubai.

Bill C-32, if approved by Parliament, will bring us in line with international standards such as the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties, standards which all of our major trading partners have adopted and ratified.  Canada has announced that we will adopt these standards, but our laws such as the Copyright Act have not been updated to the point where we can implement those standards.

Many Canadians will be surprised to learn that, under current laws, it is illegal to transfer songs from a CD that you purchased to an iPod (a process called format-shifting).  Similarly, it is illegal to record a television show for private viewing in your home at a later time (a process called time-shifting, which is a standard feature of all personal video recorders).  Bill C-32 acknowledges that these are regular practices for many Canadians and includes broad permissions for such practices.  This particular portion of the bill is a strong reflection of how outdated the current legislation has become.

The permissions for time- and format-shifting, like the majority of provisions in Bill C-32, are technology-neutral.  This means that they apply to any platform and will not exclude new technologies as they become available (the iPad, for example).  This is vitally important to ensure the continued relevance and effectiveness of the laws in a rapidly-evolving technological landscape.  Bill C-32 also mandates an automatic Parliamentary review of the Copyright Act every five years in order to address unforeseen consequences and to incorporate ongoing feedback from Canadians.

One provision which is technology-specific regards the treatment of cell phones.  Bill C-32 authorizes the circumvention of all security measures (such as digital locks) on cell phones to allow users to unlock their phones if they wish to switch to a different wireless carrier.  The only restriction is that all contracts that you have signed with the carrier must be respected (most wireless carriers have contract cancellation fees and other such policies).

Returning to the subject of format-shifting, I would like to specifically address the issue of digital locks, as the public consultations heard many different perspectives on this.  In general (for there are many specific exemptions in the education and computer industries, as well as the cell phone example noted above), Bill C-32 does not permit the breaking of digital locks.  This means you cannot copy DVDs with copyrighted movies on them even for your own personal use.  The music industry has almost completely eliminated the use of digital locks, which means you can make copies for non-commercial uses.

Bill C-32 makes reasonable, common-sense exemptions where digital locks can be broken, including:

·         unlocking cell phones;
·         personal information protection;
·         encryption research;
·         reverse engineering for software compatibility;
·         security testing of computer systems;
·         law enforcement and national security activities;
·         temporary recordings made by broadcasters for technical reasons; and
·         access for persons with perceptual disabilities.

These exemptions make reasonable accommodations for legitimate uses of copyrighted material which are protected by digital locks.  Bill C-32 does not authorize the breaking of digital locks for commercial purposes.  This means that it will remain illegal to break a lock so you can make copies of DVDs or video games without compensating the creator or copyright owner of such products.

Bill C-32 also expands the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act. Fair Dealing permits individuals and businesses to make certain uses of copyrighted material in ways that do not threaten the legitimate interests of copyright owners, but which could have significant economic, societal and cultural benefits.  While this list is not exhaustive, some examples of the expanded Fair Dealing provisions include:

·         a variety of uses under the category of user-generated content;
·         teachers and students will be allowed to use copyrighted materials in lessons conducted over the internet;
·         teachers will be allowed to digitally deliver course materials to students;
·         teachers and students will be allowed to use materials that they find on the internet as long as it is has been legitimately posted there by copyright owners;
·         librarians will be allowed to digitize print materials and then send a copy electronically to a library client;
·         all consumers can reproduce copyrighted materials for the purposes of parody or satire (review and criticism are already permitted);
·         businesses can reproduce copyrighted materials as part of a technical process (for example, formatting it to appear properly on a cell phone screen); and
·         businesses can conduct reverse engineering, security testing and encryption research to develop new products and software solutions.

Another major concern voiced by consumers during our public consultations was the issue of huge punishments for small violators.  The enforcement provisions in Bill C-32 are targeted at enablers – peer-to-peer file sharing sites that make large volumes of copyrighted material available illegally and for commercial purposes.  Our government considers commercial piracy to be a serious criminal offence; fines for this kind of violations are much higher than for violations by individuals and they carry criminal repercussions.  

Several cases in the United States have seen major record labels suing private, small-scale downloaders for millions of dollars.  Our government and the majority of Canadians believe this is inappropriate.  Under current laws, individual downloaders could face fines of up to $20,000 per infringement.  This means someone who downloads four songs illegally could be fined up to $80,000.  This is obviously not a suitable balance and it is another reason why the Copyright Act needs to be updated.

An overarching principle of fines and punishments for infringements under Bill C-32 is proportionality – consumers who download material for personal use should not face unreasonable fines.  The bill significantly reduces statutory damages for non-commercial violations by individuals, providing the courts with the flexibility to award between $100 and $5,000 in total damages.  This $5,000 maximum covers all infringements prior to the lawsuit.  Using the same example of four illegally downloaded songs, the individual would only be liable for a penalty of between $100 and $5,000 under the proposed changes. 

One very important difference between this proposed legislation and the copyright regime in the United States is our rejection of the notice-and-takedown approach in favour of a notice-and-notice approach.  This is uniquely Canadian solution and is already practiced by most Canadian internet service providers (ISPs).  Bill C-32 formalizes this practice.

Notice-and-notice means that when an ISP receives notice that one of its customers is committing a copyright infringement on its network, it must notify the infringer that he/she is committing an infringement and must cease.  If after repeated violations the infringement continues, the copyright holder can pursue legal action (as noted above, for non-commercial violations the maximum fine is $5,000).  For comparison purposes, in the United Sates’ notice-and-takedown model, users are blocked from accessing online content if they are detected committing an infringement (even if they were unaware of it).  France, to cite an extreme example, passed a law whereby people who have committed three infringements can have their internet connection permanently disabled (it is referred to as the Three Strikes Law).

As you can see, Bill C-32 is a balanced approach to copyright which protects the rights of creators while maximizing the dissemination and use of information in Canadian society.  Having received over 8,000 submissions during our consultations, I do not pretend that it will satisfy every person’s expectations.  I do hope, however, that if you have objections or suggestions that you will share them with me, as this legislation has yet to proceed through Parliament and will certainly be subject to revision and amendment based on reviews by our government and the opposition.

Thank you for taking the time to share your views with me.  This is a very complex subject and I hope that the information here has addressed your particular concerns.  I encourage you to visit to learn more about the bill and its effects.  As always, do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further questions, concerns or suggestions.

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  1. LOL!
    ” The music industry has almost completely eliminated the use of digital locks, which means you can make copies for non-commercial uses.”

    Seriously? This sentence… I mean really… what?

    So we’re allowed… as long as…. what the hell kind of law is this that we’re writing? Why the FRACK should our rights depend on what the music industry does? This is absolutely absurd. I can’t believe the government themselves wrote that and don’t realize what’s completely wrong with it… What a joke.

    Captcha: academy not – you can say that again!

  2. George Geczy says:

    “Bill C-32 does not authorize the breaking of digital locks for commercial purposes. This means that it will remain illegal to break a lock so you can make copies of DVDs or video games without compensating the creator or copyright owner of such products.”

    Sooooo…. backing up a DVD or video game for personal use or format shift is considered “Commercial purpose” now? Or do the people who write this not really ready what they write…

  3. So if I take a long trip and and I want format shift my kids movies to something like an iPod Touch to keep them amused, I’m not supposed to do so. I can however format shift their audio CD’s. I’m not going to purchase and take along a portable DVD player when I already have a better technical solution – so the bottom line is that I’ll be teaching my kids that it’s OK to break the law. Way to go Harper – a whole new generation learning that (c) laws deserve no respect.

  4. DVD backups
    “This means you cannot copy DVDs with copyrighted movies on them even for your own personal use.”

    Interesting. So, they do acknowledge this to be the case (I asked Moore/Clement via Twitter, no response).

    But, what the hell? DVDs (and soon Blu Rays) are exactly the reason people WANT to make backups. Kids have dirty grubby hands, and as hard as they might try, are prone to scratching optical discs of all types. We want to make backups so that kids can enjoy their movies and we can enjoy not worry about ruining the original and having to rebuy.

    This is stupid, and I imagine will be widely ignored. A widely ignored law is a bad law.

  5. What if unlocking your cell phone is a violation of your contract?
    “Bill C-32 authorizes the circumvention of all security measures (such as digital locks) on cell phones to allow users to unlock their phones if they wish to switch to a different wireless carrier. The only restriction is that all contracts that you have signed with the carrier must be respected (most wireless carriers have contract cancellation fees and other such policies).” Useless if the carrier has a clause in the contract forbidding you from unlocking the phone. E.g. iPhones.

  6. a former conservative voter- 'we don't get fooled again' says:

    “Our government considers commercial piracy to be a serious criminal offence”

    and in Casablanca Major Strasser was ‘shocked, shocked to find that there is gambling going on in here”

  7. Cavalier statements not backed up by facts
    I take exception to the statement, “In Canada, the outdated approach of the Copyright Act is stifling creativity and innovation,”. This is the line that lobbyist like to promote when the facts indicate otherwise. Look at number of start-ups listed on, who have mananged to do quite well under the current laws. Innovation occurs because entrapreneurs can build on passed ideas; restricting access to this knowledge is what stifles innovation. Bill C-32 serves only those who “control” this knowledge with DRM and in fact damages Canada’s competitive landscape.

  8. I second that: how are we supposed to teach the next generation to obey the law when the federal government insists on making laws that defy common sense?

  9. “This means that it will remain illegal to break a lock so you can make copies of DVDs or video games without compensating the creator or copyright owner of such products.”

    This implies that it is already illegal to break such a lock, which is incorrect. It is currently illegal to copy the DVD, not to break the lock. This bill proposes to legalize copying the DVD, but ban breaking the lock.

  10. Speak Out With Your Wallet
    One thing that I think more of us will have to do in Canada is speak out with their wallets and votes.

    Let’s try to prevent the movie industry from advertising with the phrase “Own this today on DVD/BluRay” Isn’t that misleading advertising? Who’s kidding who? We don’t own anything when we buy DVDs.

    In my own case, I do speak with my wallet: I still buy movies that have DRM, but at least I can legally back up the files (iTunes Music store) and format shift to 5 Macs/Windows PCs (and any video capable iPods that I own). I still buy physical media here and there, but thankfully they usually include rights managed digital files.

    Keep in mind, I am somewhat screwed by C32 with the piles of protected DVDs I bought. I guess my only recourse there is to sell everything on eBay for a loss.

  11. I’m starting to get annoyed by the constant ‘name brand’ technology they mention always being Apple. It has nothing to do with my personal feelings towards the company and more to do with them just tossing the names in as buzzwords so they can claim to be hip and modern. Same reason so many of them now use Twitter, Facebook, etc… nothing but appearences for the public at large and that’s who the wording of this letter seems aimed towards rather than some of us on here who, I presume, are more familiar with technology.

    At least familiar enough to install Linux so we can become commercial pirates because we want to watch a DVD.

  12. Making everything under the sun illegal and saying it is ok because the fines won’t be too high is hardly going to cut down on illegal activity. Forbidding ethically sound behavior (such as getting around digital locks for reasons deemed by law to be acceptable behavior) is only going to make things worse.

    This bill does cut down on some of the damage it could have caused in other areas, but I certainly don’t see it helping combat piracy any.

    The U.S. watch list is intentionally incorrect and a terrible excuse for anything.

  13. DVD’s Scratch easily so I back them up after losing tons to damage. However those same dvd’s contain digital locks that I have to break simply to use my purchases effectively. How do these MP’s defend making me a criminal for breaking digital locks in order to use my purchases?

    Heres a better one, I buy a game from a game company, I install the software with the provided key. A year later the hard drive fails and I’m left having to replace it. When I try to install the game I purchased again on a new hard drive i’m given a cd key activation error. I contact the publisher of said game, who then tells me to BUY ANOTHER COPY. How is this in anyway a balanced approach to copyright? Which MP wants to defend enshrining into law these very same business practices?

  14. Jack Robinson says:

    Digital Schlock Diversion
    At a time when our culturally unique and imperiled Canadian Media is being gutted, gobbled-up and mega-profit shrink-wrapped by such Corporate Vampire Squid scenarios as the recent Goldman Sachs acquisition of Atlantis Alliance and the likely Ichann takeover of Lion’s Gate/Maple… I’m disgusted by the lack of reactive rancour and citizen outrage against this increased pillaging of our communications networks, distribution rights, content ownership and home grown creativity incentives for our starving Canadian artists… who are all but forced into a Faustian firesale of their under-valued souls Due South.

    Digital locks on dumbed-down dreck ain’t the issue, Pod Kidz. It’s the insidious assault on our fat back bacon butts willingly K-Y’d by our own pathetically Pavlovian addiction to Dirty Pretty Things on itchy-thumb demand…

  15. international “watch lists”? Say it ain’t so!
    “Internationally, Canada has been placed on piracy watch lists and our intellectual property protections are compared with those of countries like China, Russia and Dubai.”

    Internationally, the morons who put Canada on piracy watch lists and compared us to China, Russia and Dubai are laughing stocks and ridiculed for the stupidity.

  16. Standard form
    Isn’t it funny that during the consultation process, the public was getting short shrift for using form letters, and here’s the government sending out form letters of its own.

    Do people get these letters no matter what they’d written? If so, it suggests that letters received are being ignored.

  17. Know what you buy?
    C-32 in it’s current form, shows blatant disregard for the basic rights of the consumer, ‘know what you buy’; for instance – there is no requirement for clear markings on the packaging that the product is copy protected, as a result consumer is buying “cat in the sack”, product of unknown characteristics. For example: when presented with copy protected game for the Wii, I will probably buy it, because copy protection does not prevent anything useful from happening, I do not need second copy for personal use, I have only one Wii. Music and video is different, I rip all my CD’s to my iPod, so I will not buy a copy protected one, it’s useless for me, same applies to video: I rip many titles to watch on my netbook while traveling, if I cannot do it – I do not need the DVD, simple consumer choice, I heard this is what conservatives stand for…

  18. Huge social cost
    Canadians usually obey the law, so far. Society works better for it. This is not the norm, the norm around the world is the opposite – and the societies afflicted ‘kind of work’ or do not work at all; you will see it if you travel.
    The reason why most societies do not respect their laws is simple: the laws are unfair and/or cumbersome, they are not worth the respect. Children learn it early and it stays with them for life, usually. This attitude is very hard to change.
    C-32 is unfair, so people will just ignore it, children will learn to ignore laws. Passing idiotic laws is risky, it undermines all the laws, also those that are not idiotic. We have a very decent society here, it works most of the time, why break it?

  19. "I can't beleive it's not totalitarianism" says:

    i agree – ‘speak with your wallet’. deprive the vampires of your blood (money) and they die

    as always, it’s about money, censorship, book banning, blog banning, brainwashing, intellectual freedom etc.
    everyone must protest, freedoms are eroded every day.
    Internet freedom must be non negotiable. give in on this and Harper runs the internet. The owners of dinosaur businesses want your money to be transferred to their bank accounts, and their man Harper will deliver, if you let him. Read the link-

  20. Is that a standard form that all MP’s are issuing, or only ones from certain parties?

  21. what a fantasy
    seriously, the various powers aligned to enforce this are at LEAST 3 years out of date. I wonder if they’ve heard of IPredator or its relatives.
    I mean, really whats a subscription fee to an anonymous portal compared to losing most of what the internet is for? Sharing info and data.

  22. If you have read the bill yourself
    this response is kind of like fool you or trying to sell you how good is this bill. This response is terrible piece of response.

    In one line said that teachers and students are allow to use copyright materials in class. But didnt mention anything such as like; can you keep the class material after the class is over? If anyone here have read the bill you will find out that you cannot do that. The bill said you need to destroy the class material when the class is over. This section of the law must be gone.

    In the first paragraph it mentioned Canada is in the piracy watch list! Well, that watch list is base on United States crap anyway and also compare us to China and Dubai, it is completely non-sense. China have much more denser population than we are in Canada and they are in a very different type of government over there. I do not know much for Dubai, but I know they are a strong religion country. So I think as long as people don’t break their religion tradition, I guess this is like a grey area for people to be freely to do stuff over there.

  23. Lol
    My god, what a load of crap. We have a government out of control and we need to do something about it.

  24. All I can say, is that a law that is not expected to be followed and which is expected to be unenforcable is completely use and undermines our justice system. In Canada we have to be able to enforce a law in order to have it stick. For instance, how many people know that it is illegal to drive a quad or snowmobile in the right-of-way next to a provincial highway? This is an example of an unenforced law. Now if I was a highways worker and placed a barrier, say a concrete base for a sign, and didn’t mark it….now it snows an you can’t see it. If Joe Blow snowmobiler comes alone and hits that concrete base and wrecks his machine, or worse, he can sue the government and likely win, because this this an unenforced law.

  25. If the music industry has almost eliminated the concept of digital locks, then why are you making a law about them? And if the music industry starts using locks again due to this law, won’t I still be surprised to learn that it is illegal to copy songs from a CD to an iPod?

    The issue with the RIAA isn’t so much the size of the fines but that they are starting lawsuits against average people, not just those copying for profit.