The Daily Digital Lock Dissenter, Day 6: Canadian Federation of Students

The Canadian Federation of Students brings together over one-half million students from more than 80 university and college students’ unions across Canada.  The CFS has been vocal on copyright reform and provided the following comments on the digital lock rules:

While C-32 proposes a welcome expansion of fair dealing, the anti-circumvention provisions would prevent users from exercising this and all other rights granted to them by the act in any instance in which a digital lock is present. these provisions would allow corporate copyright owners to freely bypass users’ rights and exercise absolute control over what users are able to do with copyrighted works. these provisions would greatly limit what consumers can do with Cds, dvds, and other purchased media; how media outlets can use videos and other multimedia for news reporting; and how researchers can use media, software, and other copyrighted works in their research.

Even the DMCA, held up internationally as the most extreme example of legislation that privileges the rights of copyright owners over those of copyright users, has recently shifted towards a more reasonable standard of protection for digital locks. in July 2010, the united States Federal Court ruled that circumventing a digital lock in order to view or use a work was “insufficient to trigger the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision”. the court went on to say that, “the DMCA prohibits only forms of access that would violate or impinge on the protections that the Copyright act otherwise affords copyright owners”. this ruling affirms that it is unreasonable for anti-circumvention provisions to restrict legitimate uses of copyrighted works. although the bill proposes a small number of exceptions to the anti-circumvention provision, they are too narrow and fail to account for the wide range of instances in which a user should be allowed to circumvent a digital lock.

These provisions are especially concerning for members of the educational community who are increasingly turning to the use of digital works. as institutions increase their use of electronic course packs, e-textbooks, electronic reserves and other digital materials, students could be faced with the possibility of being unable to exercise their rights, including fair dealing, through the imposition of digital locks.

The blanket approach to anti-circumvention goes far beyond what is required for Canada to implement the World intellectual property organisation’s (WIPO) Copyright treaty. the treaty requires that “Contracting parties shall provide adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against the circumvention of effective technological measures… that restrict acts… which are not authorized by the authors concerned or permitted by law.” Simply put, the treaty requires that signatories prohibit the circumvention of digital locks for infringing purposes. this requirement could easily be met without criminalizing the many non-infringing ways that Canadians use copyrighted works by amending the definition of circumvention to specify that it be only for infringing purposes. Such an approach would meet the requirements of the WIPO treaty, without criminalising users and allowing rights- holders to lock-up content in a manner that is contrary to the public interest.

Previous Daily Digital Locks: Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired (PRCVI) BC, Canadian Consumer Initiative, Retail Council of Canada, Canadian Council of Archives, Canadian Teachers’ Federation


  1. vocal on copyright reform
    I’ve followed the link above to the CFS being vocal on copyright reform; an interesting read but if the question is asked “Should copyright law lock down music and literature to protect the financial interests of rights-holders?” one might expect some discussion of copyright term reduction. The latter is missing from CFS’ “reform”. Since *every* 33 1/3 rpm commercially-released vinyl recording ever created is currently assumed to be under copyright or a related right, the lock-down of music at least is a resounding success.

  2. Get the fat bully off the see-saw …
    In a field that can be as specialized as educational and research publishing, the imposition of digital locks will not be offset by the conservatives ‘balancing solution’ of market forces.

    So the rights given in one part of C-11 can be easily nullified by another unreasonably broad section (anti-circumvention). This hardly seems balanced.

  3. I was expecting some serious activity in the comments section here, but was proved wrong. Seems that the students don’t really care.