Canadian anti-circumvention laws (also known as digital lock rules) are among the strictest in the world, creating unnecessary barriers to innovation and consumer rights. The rules are required under the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Internet Treaties, but those treaties leave considerable flexibility in how they should be implemented. This is reflected in the countless examples around the world of countries adopting flexible anti-circumvention rules that seek to maintain the copyright balance. Canada was pressured into following the restrictive U.S. approach in 2012, establishing a framework is not only more restrictive than required under the WIPO treaties, but even more restrictive than the U.S. system.
One of the biggest differences between Canada and the U.S. is that the U.S. conducts a review every three years to determine whether new exceptions to a general prohibition on circumventing a digital locks are needed. This has led to the adoption of several exceptions to TPMs for innovative activities such as automotive security research, repairs and maintenance, archiving and preserving video games, and for remixing from DVDs and Blu-Ray sources. Canada has no such system as the government instead provided assurances that it could address new exceptions through a regulation-making power. In the decade since the law has been in effect, successive Canadian governments have never done so. This is particularly problematic where the rules restrict basic property rights by limiting the ability to repair products or ensure full interoperability between systems.
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One of the ongoing concerns with anti-circumvention provisions is the prospect that the legal rules create incentives to use – and possibly misuse – DRM. France, which many people hold up as an example of a country that prioritizes copyright and creator protection, has many of the same concerns about […]
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The problems with the interoperability exception in Bill C-61 extend beyond its impact on open source software. The U.S. DMCA restricts the ability for a person to disclose information obtained through circumvention for the purposes of interoperability by stating that the information may be made available to others on the condition that the person "provides such information or means solely for the purpose of enabling interoperability of an independently created computer program with other programs, and to the extent that doing so does not constitute infringement under this title or violate applicable law other than this section."
Bill C-61 regulates not only the initial circumventer but anyone else that comes into possession of the information. Section 41.12 (1) includes an interoperability of computer programs provision that is very similar to the U.S. DMCA. Subsection (4) allows the same person to "communicate the information obtained under that subsection to another person for the purposes of allowing that person to make the computer program and any other computer program interoperable." That also covers similar terrain as the U.S. DMCA.
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The emergence of open source software as a powerful alternative to proprietary software models has been an important business and societal development. Open source software is today widely used by consumers (e.g., Firefox browser) and businesses (e.g., Linux operating system, Apache web server). From a policy perspective, the Canadian government's professed goal is to create a level playing field so that the marketplace rather than laws will determine marketplace winners. It has opposed attempts to create policy preferences for open source (over the objection of some advocates and countries) instead favouring a more neutral approach.
Notwithstanding the claims of neutrality, Bill C-61 creates significant marketplace impediments for open source software. Achieving a level playing field requires interoperability so that differing computer systems can freely exchange data. The bill includes an interoperability provision at Section 41.12 which states that the anti-circumvention provisions do not apply to:
a person who owns a computer program or a copy of it, or has a licence to use the program or copy, and who circumvents a technological measure that protects that program or copy for the sole purpose of obtaining information that would allow the person to make the program and any other computer program interoperable.
The problem with this provision is that it does not extend far enough to maintain a level playing field.
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