Canadian Law

Update to “Scammers On The Prowl”

In June 2011 I had posted a somewhat off-topic warning about a security issue I had been encountering for months.

I had been receiving unsolicited calls from individuals with thick Indian accents claiming to be “Software Maintenance Department of Online PC Care” asking me to give them access to my computer because of some alleged virus infection.

This was of course a common con by that time, which also involved individuals claiming to represent Microsoft calling random numbers in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Basically they gained access, altered settings without the user’s knowledge and then proceeded to extort $49 to $450 from the user to “repair” the damage they had caused.

The Federal Trade Commission in the United States have taken legal actions against these fraudsters yesterday, freezing their assets and demanding a halt to this activity.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission have also penalized the companies involved in this tech support scam in respect to Canada’s no call list legislation.

If you have received a call of this nature, please file a complaint with the CRTC via this form.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Copyright Modernization Act passed through the legislative process and obtained royal assent in June of this year. And though I am critical of the technological protection measure provisions, the bill is still a step forward. But it appears that the lobbyists in the United States are attempting to reverse many of the provisions in this legislation through the Trans Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance want to circumvent our democratic processes in order to force our government to enact RIAA style prosecutions in Canada.

They are demanding new penalties for intellectual property violations, new processes in which internet providers are forced to police the internet on their behalf and the removal of the $5000 liability cap on non-commercial infringement.

But their demands don’t end there.

They want an extension of the copyright term up to the American standard and want our customs officers to search people for copyright violations upon entry, without a search warrant.

At the moment copyright is limited to life plus 50 years, meaning an author will own his works up to his death and his estate would retain copyright on these works for 50 years after the author’s death.

The Americans extended their copyright term to life plus 70 years and added additional provisions to their Copyright Act extending copyright on published works to 95 years from publication, which could be renewed resulting in a term of 120 years in some instances.

So, not only do they want to practically eliminate our public domain
but they also want us to be burdened with longer lines at our airports and border crossings so searches can be performed on laptop hard drives and media players.

These amendments were ineffective in the United States, having failed to prevent 96.68 million BitTorrent downloads in the first half of 2012 according to the Musicmetric Digital Music Index, so why would they work in Canada ?

Parliament Is In Session

So, Parliament is now in session and several issues are back on the table.

Quite a few of the more controversial bills have passed through, some changed slightly like the Copyright Modernization Act. But the primary issue I’m having now is related to privacy in the internet.

We have progressed, the Office Of The Privacy Commissioner of Canada offering an online form for complaints. And the debate persists in the media, as it’s been since Bill C-12 was introduced in September 2011 by the Minister of Industry and Ministry of State (Agriculture).

The issue of course is the wording of the proposed amendments to Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act in Bill C-12 and other documents, which could cause problems later on in its interpretation and enforcement.

At the moment the member of parliament are concentrating on the budget, which will be tabled next week. But quite a few citizens are also wondering if they will be required to pay for technology to spy on every day citizens through their internet providers. And others wonder what will qualify as “probable cause” to start an investigation of an individual.

For example, will the past downloading of files from services like Megaupload result in an investigation in regards to piracy because of the accusations made against the service by the United States ? Will the viewing of a fundamentalist video on Youtube result in an investigation related to terrorism ?

Some people assume that they will be determined innocent with little to no effort if they were ever exposed to these issues. But what will be the due processes and how inconvenient will they be to the accused and the system ?

I am concerned about the mass prosecution of people and financial toll this will take on our internet providers and legal system. And having avoided the use of peer to peer transfer programs because of malware and spyware, I do not appreciate being exposed to the possibility of security issues through the implementation of a system that could have security issues of its own.

“Haste makes waste”. We need to tread slowly and thoughtfully through the process.

Google Refines Searches

Google has announced that they will be updating their search algorithms, prioritizing legitimate sources for film and music over sites that have received remove notices.

This will enable people to find sources and avoid some of the less secure sites, some of which have viruses and malware.

A counter-notification process will also be offered to individuals whose sites have been wrongfully flagged.

No Royalties On Music Previews

The Supreme Court Of Canada has ruled that music previews comply to the definition of Fair Dealing in the Copyright Act and cannot therefore be subjected to the collection of royalties.

“Research” need not be for creative purposes only. Permitting only creative purposes to qualify as “research” would ignore the fact that one of the objectives of the Copyright Act is the dissemination of the works themselves. Limiting “research” to creative purposes would also run counter to the ordinary meaning of “research”, which includes many activities that do not require the establishment of new facts or conclusions. The fair dealing exception must not be interpreted restrictively and “research” must be given a large and liberal interpretation.

The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, Canadian Recording Industry Association and CMRRA-SODRAC Inc had wished to collect royalties from internet providers for both previews and full music downloads, the latter also having been dismissed by another ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada today.

These royalties would have resulted in major expenditures for internet providers, who would have passed these on to the consumer.

Bill C-11 – What Now ?

Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, has passed and will become law shortly.

This means you will no longer be able to perform private copies from copy protected recordings and that the sale of software and devices enabling consumers to make backups of pre-recorded DVDs and blu-rays will be forbidden in Canada.

The sale of multi-region DVD or blu-ray players could also be restricted in Canada though I believe this could be challenged legally because the importation of DVDs and blu-rays from other regions have not yet been made illegal.

I believe the playback of legally purchased material will not likely be targeted by law enforcement, the priority being unauthorized mass distributions on the internet and by vendors. But regional coding is a copy protection scheme that is technically protected by the digital copying provisions of Bill C-11.

Unfortunately this means that some consumers will not be able to legally playback films, concerts or music video compilations that are on a DVD or blu-ray disc whose regional coding is incompatible with their North American player, even when this material is not available via a North American distributor.

This material can be delayed or shelved indefinitely by North American distributors who have the rights to distribute it on Region 1 DVDs or Region A blu-rays in North America. And though some do eventually get released on region free discs, somewhere, many titles remain out of reach to Canadians.

Online film distributors like iTunesicon have helped but the issues remain in regards to the distribution of titles that have not reached a certain popularity in North America. But of course little can be done until clarifications are made in regards to this undistributed content and other issues including the Linux software issue.

Linux based operating systems use software that strip copy protection from DVDs and blu-rays to enable their playback. And some consumers prefer to use this software to view films on their Windows and Mac powered computers.

I personally prefer using Windows Media Center to occasionally play DVDs on my computer. But Microsofticon has said that some versions of Windows 8 will not include DVD playback in a May 2012 blog entry so I will likely be forced to playback DVDs and blu-ray discs using software from the DVD or blu-ray drive manufacturer in the future.

Yes, most of the major manufacturers will probably include software like
CinePlayer with their drives. But will DVD and blu-ray drive manufacturers be allowed to include Linux based software with their products to enable their consumers to view content ?

Ultimately the courts will decide whether the digital lock provisions apply to these situations and we wont know until then.

I suspect the members of parliament will simply ask people to consult attorneys for their interpretations of the new copyright act. But if I find information I will try to link it.