copyright reform

Another Cash Grab?

The Copyright Act is being reviewed by the Canadian Government and some Canadians are of course concerned that this will include an extension of private copying levies to cell phones and the possibility of websites being blocked for minor copyright violations.

Unfortunately the government has been pretty quiet about this since their December 17th, 2017 press release and I didn’t want to speculate. But a line in the sand needs to be drawn, regardless of what is and isn’t being considered in the closed door meetings they might be having with foreign lobbyists.

I don’t think cell phones should be subject to the private copying levy because streaming is the preferred method of obtaining music on this device according to Music Canada, some customers listening to radio on these devices. And the possibility of having my site blocked because I accidentally linked a site that decided to offer pirated music is just absurd but these kind of proposals have been made in other countries.

This isn’t about giving artists more of their dues but giving labels more money. And streaming is where the improvements are needed when it comes to royalties for artists, so I see no point in levying cell phone storage.

The Copyright Board proposed levying hard drives and microSD memory cards in 2014 but that propose was rejected because a “recording audio medium” is defined by Part VIII, Section 79 of the Copyright Act as “a recording medium, regardless of its material form, onto which a sound recording may be reproduced and that is of a kind ordinarily used by individual consumers for that purpose”.

A cell phone’s primary function is communication, not the receipt, storage and playback of music. And this device is also used to take and view photographs and videos.

It makes no sense to levy this device for royalties for music and nothing else. And this slippery slope is not advantageous for consumers, who would object to paying levies for storing photographs, video and games on their new smartphone, or tablet.

I don’t like being gouged on data fees so I don’t listen to music, watch videos or play video games on mine now. And I seriously doubt i’d enjoy paying more for a newer model, for services I wouldn’t use.

Do we really want to burden the cell phone industry with this? And when it comes to blocking, this can be bypassed with Virtual Private Network services, so is the government going to go after those as well in the name of copyright?

VPNs are used by people who travel and use public wi-fi, for security reasons. Do we really want to loose access to this service over piracy? When a sharp decline in music piracy was observed in 2017 by Music Canada?

A form has been made available by Open Media to provide comments to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on these issues.

Please submit this form and share this link and your opinions on social media before September 17th, 2018. Thank you.

Save on Music, Books and DVDs at Indigo.ca

Rolling Up The Sleeves

So, the election results are in and now it’s time to start asking questions.

What parts of Bill C-51 will remain unaltered and what changes are to be expected under the new government ? Will Canadians be burdened with extra costs to implement these surveillance programs ? What measures will be taken to keep the data secure ?

Does the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement include further intrusions into our copyright ? Will the public be consulted in regards to the key provisions of this agreement prior to signing ? Will our recent reforms be bypassed and superseded by foreign entities and lobbyists ?

We will of course all need to wait until the next budget to know what investments the new government is planning for our digital strategy. But we should know who will be assigned to the key cabinet positions shortly.

Good Morning or Happy Birthday ?

Say, did you know that you can’t sing “Happy Birthday To You” on Youtube ?

That’s right. The age old tune is still copyrighted and to use it you need to pay up.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s an adult or group of children that sings it. And when a film production company called Good Morning To You Productions Inc made a documentary about the songs history, they were required to pay a $1,500 synchronization license fee to use it on their film.

Had this company not paid they would have been liable up to $150,000 in damaged for copyright infringement so they paid up. But of course they also decided to launch a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court representing the Southern District of New York, on behalf of all who were forced to pay to use this song.

The composition was originally entitled “Good Morning To All” and composed in 1893 by Patty Smith Hill and her sister Mildred Hill. And the copyright to that song of course expired in 1921 in the States. But a change in lyrics in 1924 and a different arrangement in 1935 caused the copyright to linger.

Fast forward to 2013.

The plaintiffs claim that they have evidence dating the traditional lyrics to 1911. This would date both the composition and traditional lyrics to over 75 years, rendering both public domain.

They also dispute whether copyright was actually established in 1924 because Robert H. Coleman was only credited for compiling, editing and publishing “Harvest Hymns”, a songbook which featured the melody and lyrics to “Happy Birthday To You”.

The class action lawsuit also alleges that copyright for “Happy Birthday To You” had not been established in several subsequent publications and copyright registrations.

What’s annoying about this is that in Canada there’s no dispute whether this song is public domain with lyrics or not. But everything that is uploaded to Youtube is subject to American law so hold off uploading your birthday videos guys and gals until this is settled.

Bill C-11 Is Now Law

Bill C-11’s amendments to our Copyright Act have come into force today.

This means we are now no longer able to perform private copies, copies for personal use, from copy protected recordings.

We can continue to make personal copies from legally purchased recordings that are not protected by digital rights management. But copy protected CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays can now no longer be copied, even for backup.

It should be noted that the vast majority of CDs are not copy protected anyway, copy protection having failed in 2005 because of the Sony BMG rootkit issues. And the music industry appears to have adopted the mp3, iTunesicon having included an ability to convert music into that format in their software. But some consumers are still concerned that they could be subjected to experimental copy protection schemes in the future.

To prevent music recordings from being leaked prior to their release date the labels could experiment with copy protection schemes within the industry and later attempt to adopt this format in their distribution to consumers, causing compatibility and security issues.

The technological protection measure provisions were primarily added to protect the film and software industries, but we have yet to see their interpretations in action. And as consumers we will need to remain vigilant.

I will be keeping an eye on these issues and will post additional information as it becomes available.

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 ?

Bill C-11 Update

Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, will be up for its third reading vote by June 18th in the House Of Commons.