Montreal Gazette: Digital Lock Rules Cave To U.S.

The Montreal Gazette has published its masthead editorial on Bill C-11, the reintroduced copyright bill.  The Gazette (rightly in my view) says “for the most part the Copyright Modernization Act strikes a good balance between the rights of consumers to use products they buy and those of copyright-holders who are entitled to due compensation for their creations.” It notes one caveat, however:

Less welcome, and the sticking point in previous attempts to pass this bill, is the blanket provision against breaking digital locks, even for purposes of personal use. This includes picking a lock on a DVD purchased overseas to watch at home, or transferring a purchased e-book to read to another personal device. The bill provides for $5,000 fines for even the smallest such violations.

This provision was apparently included as a result of heavy pressure from U.S. authorities and in the interest of maintaining cross-border trade and exemption from protectionist measures that would prevent Canadian firms from bidding on U.S. government procurement contracts. It is unlikely that there will be many prosecutions under this article as long as violations are committed in the privacy of people’s homes and not for any commercial purpose, but it is still a niggling restriction that caves in to the U.S. at the expense of the right of average Canadians to do what they wish to with their own property for their own enjoyment.


  1. Keep spreading the word.

  2. The problem is…
    The Montreal gazette will be the only news paper from Quebec that will talk about this.

    Infact the only thing we got in french media was: “The Conservative introduced their balanced copyright bill.” or a variation on this theme.

  3. Niggling
    The Montreal Gazette might think that the anti-circumvention provision is mere “niggling”, but that is very short-sighted – for at least two reasons:

    1. Tooling
    In order to fill up your home theatre PC, you will need tools to rip the DVDs, BDs, and (SA)CDs and circumvent the various measures included on these: encryption schemes, corrupted TOCs all the way up to audio watermarking (DVD-Audio and Cinavia on some BDs). Right now you can still purchase tools to circumvent most of these (but not all) if you know where to look for them, and thanks to places like China and the twin-island nation Antigua and Barbuda that are not under the influence of the DMCA. Without proper tooling being openly and legally available, most Canadians will have to admit technical defeat.

    2. To paraphrase Darth Vader, we haven’t yet experienced the Full Power of the Digital Locks. With the legal protection and the threat of fines, the business case for including digital locks becomes more viable, and may even be mandated by upstream content providers. Think “broadcast flag”, preventing you to record a tv-show. Watch for expiration dates; you have 30 days to watch a DVRd show. The least annoying will be that included commercials become unskippable/fast-forwardable. The Industry has finally almost succeeded the ground it lost in the US Betamax case: THEY will determine what you can record, if permitted, how long you can keep it. The government should be fully aware of this; makes you wonder why they would sign it all away.

  4. Byte:
    Fortunately ripping blu-ray’s isn’t too difficult and even if the tools become illegal they are still out there. Recording/Capping from HDTV isn’t too difficult either at the moment. I know my cable co doesn’t encrypt the firewire ports at all, hopefully this won’t change any time soon. Even if it does, I’ll just have to purchase one of those Hauppage Component capture boxes or something.
    I’m sure there will always be a way.

  5. Phil,
    If there is a way or not doesn’t change that you broke the law and you might be forced to pay 5000$ for using media/software/devices the way you want. Basically this law makes a lot of people criminals for using things they pay for. There will always be an illegal option, I mean even if DRM isn’t defeated you could steal the physical device.. in the eyes of the law, breaking a digital lock is considered stealing. It’s a bit ridiculous that the lock on a product is considered more valuable than the product itself even when it is faulty.

  6. no I get your point, it’s valid. I guess I just come from the point-of-view that some laws are so immoral that as citizens we have the responsibility to openly defy them. I guess I put this kind of restriction in that catagory.

    On a related note, I’d like Micheal Geist to clarify on his blog the issue of Firewire (IEEE 1394) ports on Cable Boxes. I know in the US there is a clear FCC requirement that Cable Companies provide Cable Boxes with Firewire that allow an unencrypted stream for the local OTA stations (they don’t have to provide unencrypted cable stations). In Canada, I’m not aware of any such mandate by the CRTC. Nevertheless, some cable companies in Canada have completely unrestricted firewire (ie. even premium movie channels are recordable via the port). My Cable company is fortunately like this. However other cable companies in Canad restrict everything; even the OTA stations. Is there any actual rules in Canada regarding this or is it simply up to the whim of the Cable company. I know whenever I’ve contacted my Cable company about the issue they completely play dumb and say, “we don’t suppose the firewire port”, which is a complete non-answer. I haven’t pressed the issue too far since as I say, at the moment I’m just lucky and my own Cable company has left it open and I suppose are just claiming ignorance?

  7. Barry Sookman says:

    Michael, you surely must know that the Montreal Gazette quote you refer to is inaccurate as it relates to TPMs. I dealt with that in my blog post on Monday Why would you quote from an article that is inaccurate without telling your readers?

  8. Sookman,
    Really it’s in there and the NDP, Liberals, several news papers etc. didn’t find it but you did. oh wait you fibbed a bit didn’t you.
    Bill C-11 does not prohibit circumventing copy control TPMs sure BUT what TPM are there that restricts copying and does NOT also restrict access (TPM’s that restrice access are illegal under the bill). So the Gazzette saying:
    “blanket provision against breaking digital locks, even for purposes of personal use” is wrong , unless you take into account that all TPM’s that restrict copy also restrict access.
    Hell what use is a copy that you cant access?

  9. Michael Geist says:

    @Barry Sookman

    I think the Gazette op-ed gets the policy issues on C-11 exactly right. Consistent with many stakeholders, it takes the position the bill does a good job on many issues, but not on digital locks. Its emphasis on the broad nature of the lock provisions and the U.S. pressure in establishing those rules, demonstrates not everyone is misled by claims that the C-11 approach is in our best interests and strictly necessary for WIPO compliance.


  10. Concerned Citizen says:

    Consistent with many stakeholders who quote Michael Geist. In fact, it’s almost as if Michael Geist wrote the editorial for the Gazette. Does it surprise anyone that when the professor hears his own echo he thinks the echo got things “exactly right”?

  11. …a storm is coming.
    Just in case somebody hasn’t noticed yet, the upcoming generation(s) of Canadians are not only more tech-savvy, they also don’t like -what they see as- unjust rules being shoved down their throats: they simply ignore them. They also have a healthy distrust of the current “only what’s good for business, is good for Canadians” attitude.

    Case in point from this quote: “our objectives of taking meaningful action on copyright piracy, protecting right owners and promoting creativity, innovation and legitimate business models for the benefit of the consumers.”

    Why does the benefit of the consumers necessarily go through a business model? That’s what the problem is. What’s good for consumers needs to be not viewed in the light of what is good for business.

    @Sookman: so what you’re saying is that, after Bill C11 passed, the Big Box electronics chains like BB/FS can start selling DVDXCopy (or whatever it was called) that allows ripping CSS-protected DVDs? If not, you should be ashamed of yourself.

    @Phil: this ties in a bit with my comment to Sookman; you will be able to find these tools and use them, but the average Canadian won’t, and not all of them will have a (grand)son/daughter, nephew, etc. to set it all up for them. IF you’re serious about allowing copies of DVD to shift formats, I want to be able to go in the BB/FS, buy a HTPC (can’t find that term on their websites yet) and hopefully it should already come with a handy tool pre-installed: pop in DVD, add to library, done. Now THAT is taking care of the interests of consumers!

    The tech-savvy generations I am talking about are going to want this. Period. And they won’t be told by Big Business that they can’t. It’s just a matter of time before the entire Massive Intellectual Property Warehouses’ bubble is going to pop and the power they still have over politicians and higher echelons of public office will go with it.

  12. @Byte >The tech-savvy generations I am talking about are going to want this

    Those in their 30-40’s are the ones who want control of the property they purchased with their hard earned money. The younger people don’t seem to care too much. They mostly know of disposable media ie digital files as thats how their get their entertainment from itunes, youtube, download sites and etc…

  13. @end user: I think you hit in right on the money. I’m in my 30s now and grew up in the late 90s early 2000’s as a late teen/early 20-something learning how to: rip CDs/DVDs, install modchips in PlayStation 1 & 2s, how to burn Dreamcast ISOs, etc. It was something everyone who was somewhat tech-savvy did in those days and learned how to do (people born between 1975-1982 I’d say). There’s a sense that we want to have complete control of our machines and media. The people younger now don’t seem to care. They like to rely on corporate digital hubs like iTunes and Youtube. It makes a bit sad. These days I’m still the same as I ever was, but now it’s “softmodding Wii systems with custom firmware”, “jailbreaking the AppleTV2 to install XBMC media server on it”. I would never buy music off iTunes and I hate relying on the so-called “Cloud” and having someone else have control over my stuff.

  14. The real battlefield …

    With C-11 surely passing as inked, the real battle will be with the courts. The above link is from the USA but in some ways they are ahead of us in modernizing their copyright restrictions, even as we legislate their mistakes into ours.