The “Canadian” DMCA bill


There’s been lots of news lately about the Federal Government’s plan to table new copyright legislation. Though current information about the proposed bill appears to be hearsay and quoted from unnamed sources, all signs point towards the new laws being akin to the DMCA in the US. The DMCA, widely seen to be benefiting corporations in lieu of protecting consumers, is relatively unpopular and it has also been argued that it’s being used to stifle innovation.

Copyright reform in Canada is coming – that much was no surprise. What does surprise me is how the bill was rumoured to have been written – under pressure from both Canadian and US-based industry advocacy groups, both pushing for DMCA-style reforms that will undoubtedly benefit the companies associated with them. I have always been wary of excessive corporate influence in governmental affairs, but am especially disturbed by some of the provisions supposedly in the bill.

This is by no means a partisan issue. (As far too many issues in politics are) Two years ago, the then-Liberal-run Federal Government tried to pass Bill C-60, a piece of legislation with similar provisions as the current one. They failed, because after its First Reading, Parliament was dissolved following a non-confidence motion from the opposition. Today, the current Minister of Industry, Jim Prentice, is the main man behind the current copyright legislation, has made good decisions in the past, such as the announcement of new rules in the upcoming Federal Wireless Spectrum auction that aim to increase competition and help consumers get better prices.

This is why it’s somewhat boggling to read the rumours of behind-the-door meetings with US-based industry groups, who allegedly pressured and influenced the wording of the bill. Following pressure and protests from people concerned about the bill, Prentice apparently delayed introducing the bill this week, only to have rumours resurface the the bill will indeed be introduced tomorrow morning.

I actually am looking forward to the bill being tabled. It will finally give everyone a chance to see the actual content of it. Everything I’ve heard up till now has been unconfirmed, though most of it has been reported by Dr. Michael Geist, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa and the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law. It’s safe to say he’s a reliable authority on the subject, and not some Internet-conspiracy kook.

I encourage you to read all that you can on this legislation and stay informed – that is the only way personal freedoms will be maintained. Dr. Geist’s blog is one of my favourite sources of information on the subject, and since it’s attracting so much media attention, news sites like the CBC have also covered it. There’s also a Facebook group that is against the new legislation. In particular, the rules against fair-use, use in parody and other consumer rights may have a chilling effect on things up to and including free speech.

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