Canadian Law

Bill C-11 Under Review Today

Bill C-11, a.k.a the Copyright Modernization Act, is now being reviewed in committee.

This committee will review the proposed amendments, clause by clause, and will make adjustments in response to requests by interested parties.

Unfortunately numerous groups have requested major amendments that could complicate matters for consumers and Canadian internet users.

Members of the music industry are not only asking for a levy on mp3 players and serious restrictions to the fair dealing/user generated content clauses. But they are also asking for SOPA and PIPA like measures that include the blocking of foreign web sites and the removal of online content without court oversight.

Other industry groups have also called for the identification of internet users, again without legal oversight, and the introduction of RIAA style prosecutions to Canada with amendments that are so vague as to possibly result in the prosecution of social networking sites like Facebook and search engines like Google.

The Supreme Court of Canada has had previous rulings on fair dealing, the prosecution of internet providers in regards to copyright and the proposed levies on mp3 players. But it appears some members of the music industry don’t care about these rulings.

They also don’t care about the many concerns voiced by the public and associations representing students and librarians, as made apparent by their rhetoric.

They’ve even gone as far as to attempt to pressure the Canadian Bar Association to retract their official opposition to the questionable provisions in the Copyright Modernization Act.

In essence they’re willing to allow the public to be subjected to vague and possibly unconstitutional regulations, that will be questioned in law for years, when exemptions for fair dealing and private copying would in no way hinder their industry.

Under the premise of the protection of their industry, they will subject consumers to more copy protection schemes like that of the Sony Rootkit, that have failed and endangered their interests in the past.

There are currently two petitions that may be of interest to those who oppose these amendments :

Please sign these petitions as soon as possible and contact your local MP in regards to your concerns.

Thank You.

Liberal Party Propose Amendment

In response to the numerous groups calling for an amendment allowing the circumvention of copy protection for non-infringement purposes, the Liberal Party of Canada have proposed an amendment that would alter the following definition in our Copyright Act :

41. The following definitions apply in this section and in sections 41.1 to 41.21. “circumvent” means,

(a) in respect of a technological protection measure within the meaning of paragraph (a) of the definition “technological protection measure”, to descramble a scrambled work or decrypt an encrypted work or to otherwise avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate or impair the technological protection measure, for any infringing purpose, unless it is done with the authority of the copyright owner; and

(b) in respect of a technological protection measure within the meaning of paragraph (b) of the definition “technological protection measure”, to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate or impair the technological protection measure for any infringing purpose.

I believe the official opposition, the New Democrat Party, will support this amendment. And a petition has been made available though the Liberal Party Of Canada for Canadians to sign here.

Major Blunder On Lawful Access

Apparently Minister of Public Safety Vic Towes introduced Bill C-30 in the House Of Commons without full knowledge of the content of this bill.

When questioned about Section 17 of this bill on CBC Radio program The House today, the Minister was surprised by the provisions included in that section.

“This is the first time that I’m hearing this somehow extends ordinary police emergency powers [to telecommunications]. In my opinion, it doesn’t. And it shouldn’t.”

In response to this interview New Democrat leadership candidate Paul Dewar has issued a statement asking Vic Toews to resign :

“First he introduced Bill C-30 which undermines Canadians’ online privacy. Then he accused Canadians who raised privacy concerns of supporting child pornography. Today we learned that he had not even reviewed the most intrusive provisions of the bill before introducing it in the House of Commons.”

Bill C-30 is currently in committee.

The MPAA & RIAA On Private Copying

The Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America have issued a join statement against the circumvention of copy protection for private copying.

On page 47 of their February 10th, 2012 statement the associations claim that there is no need for an exemption (in the States) because copies are available for purchase for numerous devices and “the inability to access a work on the device of one’s choosing is a mere inconvenience that does not justify an exemption“.

At the moment Canadians are not eligible to obtain “low cost” copies from most of the DVD/Blu-Ray programs mentioned in the American report.

We do have access to some digital copy titles. But these are generally included in the more expensive film packages (i.e “combo packs“) and many of these digital copy titles are time limited.

I believe digital copies with expiry dates are unfair to the consumer, who purchases the right to copy the material to a computer or portable device.

The ability to perform a digital copy is prominent on the packaging of these “combo packs” so it only logical to conclude that the consumer sees this ability as a feature and has chosen to purchase these “combo packs” for the ability, at extra cost.

That said, a nominal cost to perform a private copy would probably be the best option for the consumer.

Software is the best option for individuals who wish to make multiple private copies. But the entertainment industry should probably consider advertisement funded private copies to reduce the cost of a private copy after an initial purchase of a DVD or Blu-Ray disc by the consumer.

Whilst downloading a private copy a consumer could be shown numerous commercials for products or upcoming film and television features, like those found at the beginning of most DVDs and Blu-Ray discs.

Another option would be to offer Canadian consumers free downloads from existing services, thus promoting the sale of paid products on those services. There are numerous services available to Canadians including Bearshare and iMesh, who offer music videos, and iTunes and Netflix, who offer music and film downloads.

Some digital copies are available from these services and I suspect cloud services will become the consumer’s choice when it comes to private copying in the future, as it enables consumers to download or stream content on numerous devices.

“We Will Entertain Amendments”

In response to concerns about privacy and judicial oversight, the Conservative government has stated that they would be open to amendments to Bill C-30 in committee.

Cited as the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act, this bill enables the RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Commissioner of Competition and police services through-out Canada access to subscriber information without warrants whilst investigating offenses under their mandate.

On March 9th, 2011, a joint statement by the federal and provincial privacy commissioners of Canada was issued in response to the previous proposed legislation. And the concerns listed in that statement and in the October 26th, 2011 statement issued by the Office of The Privacy Commissioner of Canada remain with Bill C-30.

Unfortunately there is also some concern in regards to the interpretation of evidence and preconceptions related to certain activities, like the use of peer to peer services or file services like Megaupload.

Yes, peer to peer programs are being used for illegal activities, as did Megaupload. But does it mean that all activity on these services are suspicious, requiring the collection of information from the users of these services ?

Section 16, subsection (2)(b) may also enable foreign police services to access this information, which could then be subject to their local laws and their inherent weaknesses.

Groups like Anonymous have been able to hack into many of the aforementioned police services so how secure will the information be ? And what’s to stop criminals from abusing section 17, which compels internet and cell phone providers to give private information to any police officer upon receipt of an oral request ?

Hopefully these issues will be addressed with much more than the false dichotomy Canadians have been subjected to lately.

Bulgeria and Holland Put ACTA On Hold

Mashable.com reports that Bulgeria has decided to put their ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement on hold “until it sees a clear and unified European stance on the treaty“. And Holland has decided to study ACTA further to determine if this agreement violates their country’s privacy legislation.

Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have also recently decided to reconsider their ratification in response to public protests.