Canadian DMCA will take $500/download from your kids' college fund

More word on Canada's version of the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which Industry Minister Jim Prentice is rumoured to be ready to release tomorrow: it will include a $500/download fine, which means that if your kids download a couple of $0.99 singles without paying for them, the American labels will be able to take $1,000 out of her college fund (and those are Canadian dollars, still worth something on the international market).
Some sources say that it comes as a result of Prentice's concern that the Conservatives could be tied to huge damage awards against teenagers for peer-to-peer file sharing. If that is indeed the case, it is not clear how this provision will solve that concern. While there are still many questions about this provision (does it target downloading or uploading? does it exempt sound recordings covered by the private copying levy? is the $500 a set amount or a maximum? is it per infringement or cover all activity? does it require actual evidence that files made available are downloaded?), consider a case involving 1000 song files, not an unusually high number. The "retail" value of those files is roughly $1000, yet on a per infringement basis the Prentice proposal could lead to a damage award of $500,000. Even small scale cases would lead to huge awards - 50 songs could lead to a $25,000 fine. Ironically, the prospect of huge damage awards comes as Canadian musicians and songwriters have both rejected lawsuits against individuals. If Prentice hopes that the provision reduces the concern associated with file sharing lawsuits, this move may actually have the opposite effect.


  1. “and those are Canadian dollars, still worth something on the international market’

    Actually the Canadian Dollar is worth $.999 USD as of right now so it’s almost exactly the same as $1 U.S.

    This whole thing is ludicrous though, the Canadian people won’t let this slide.

  2. Harper is the Republican/US-Firsters agent in Canada – his Party has not the depth of either talent or experience to properly govern the country, all of Harper’s themes and memes are US “media-adjusted” creations of people who want you to pay them more for every thing you need or want in life….
    Their agenda is not to increase peace order and goosd government…rather the reverse..

  3. I’m tired of the MAFIAAs greed.
    Oh, boohoo, Hollywood / recording industry.

    So, your fat cats can’t afford there limousines anymore. So freaking what.
    You know, shows like Cribs are really detrimental for your plea of “we are trying to protect our poor artists”…
    Right poor, most of the artists under your labels don’t have to take up 2 jobs to just pay for their houses and the tuition for schooling of their children. Go, cry me a river! Poor would be if they had to stand outside waiting for foodstamps, poor would be that if they have to get clothing from shelters. NOT if they have to sell of their 14th car or have to get a smaller vacation home.
    Poor is having to live in a trailer.

    I’m all for civil disobedience in this case.

    These fines are soooo far out of proportion, that it leave me wondering why the courts aren’t laughing it out.

  4. You know this crap really pisses me off. Oh no, not the fines, the fact that people are up in arms about this.

    Laws are a set of agreed upon rules that society put together to get along better. It is nice that Cory wants his work in the public domain and has found ways to make money without copyright but most others in the industries that depend on it find it necessary. I do as well, even if I find that it is a much longer period than I’m comfortable with.

    As such, there needs to be enforcement of the social contract so that the vast majority of copyright holders be protected.

    So where do we set the limits? How much per download? It has to be preventative and punitive. $500 is a lot of money, but then again, if you’ve given this away to 500 people, why shouldn’t you be responsible for paying for their convenience? It wasn’t yours to give away.

    And maybe this is what we should be teaching children…not all laws make sense. This isn’t a human rights issue (oh no, I’m being oppressed, I can’t download the latest shitty pop song! It is like being in a gulag!)…no this is something that people need to understand that even if the law sucks, you follow it or change it. Again, not a human rights issue…I have no problem not following those that are — and I’m 100% willing to pay the consequences for not following those laws.

    But this law is not unjust…it may be harsh, but it isn’t anything anyone with a brain in their head couldn’t follow. It’s like my sis…she just got caught for running tolls for the last few years. $0.20 for the fee…but since she didn’t pay, $30 ticket (multiply this by a lot). It isn’t like she wasn’t informed of this…it’s just that she thought she wouldn’t get caught. Harsh? Incredibly. But the law is the law and it is there to protect its citizens, all of its citizens…even the few that make their living through an outdated system of properties that don’t even really exist.

  5. Per download?

    Okay, I’ve just dreamt up a new idea for a protocol: Your computer contacts the server, and uploads a ‘1’ or a ‘0’; The server responds if you guessed correctly or not, through each bit of the file you’re interested in.

    …. in fact, you could streamline this a bit using the XOR operator.

    1. You get the file size of the file you’re interested in. Surely there can’t be any infringement, there, right?
    2. You upload that many megs (or gigs…) of random data.
    3. The server responds with the corrections, i.e. your data XOR the file.
    4. You can then, as a purely academic exercise, reconstruct the original file without ever having downloaded it.

    For bonus points, the file you upload could be something you’ve copyrighted and signed away into the public domain, but the more I think about this, the more it sounds like I’m reinventing …. whatsitcalled… Monolith 7D4. Which is also a great idea, and wouldn’t require you to upload anything in the first place.

    So. Hmmm. Forget I said anything. Just start using Monolith.

  6. I suppose it’s creating a financial incentive for people to really understand and start using public key cryptography and digital fountain codes?

    Why does this kind of law even get considered?

    a) It makes the politicians unpopular at home.
    b) Jonny-foreigner can still infringe your studios rights with complete impunity because your laws don’t apply in their territory.
    c) some technical countermeasure based around encryption will render monitoring ineffective in your country.
    d) The cops have better things to do than go searching individual homes for evidence of infringement (although there is an argument for criminalising petty activities because the petty crimes are easier to prosecute, unlike actual criminals who have guns, resist arrest and so forth)

    so either:

    i) we have to outlaw all communication because some communication may infringe someones copyright, but we can’t tell because it’s all encrypted

    ii) we have to outlaw effective encryption

    iii) the studios have to come up with a way to operate as a legitimate business in an age where digital information is free and freely shared.

    It should be illegal to profit from ripping off someone else’s copyrighted work, but non-profit making infringements don’t really matter.

  7. Clif Marsiglio: first of all, please don’t characterize my work as being “in the public domain.” That’s a legal term and it’s wholly incorrect.

    Second of all, under current Canadian law, the private copying right arguably (and per some caselaw) makes private downloading lawful. This isn’t about kids breaking the law: this is about Canadian lawmakers *changing the law* to criminalize kids. And doing so at the behest of a foreign power, against the wishes of the Canadian rightsholders, performers, record labels, writers, librarians, citizen’s rights groups, etc.

  8. I’m not Canadian, and I couldn’t care less about politics. But I can’t help gawking at this industry lobbyism. Meh, who cares about pesky details? Those can be arranged later. All that counts is that the main objective succeeds: Give us your money.

    It seems, Canadians need to re-infiltrate Parliament with their own people again to get represented.

    @Clif Marsiglio: Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and all that, but these laws are not agreed upon by society. For starters, these demands are out of all proportion to the number of private file-sharers who think that creator’s privileges are sufficiently protected as it is. They benefit only a very small subset of people who use them to gain more and more power over the rest of society (or even another society as Cory alludes).

  9. There are times when I go, “Arghh!” after reading Cory and some others.

    And then, there are times when I read articles like *this* when I feel this urge to donate all my life’s savings to EFF and the like, ask Cory to run for President and buy myself the biggest, baddest gun and move into my basement.

    I really should do something about all this pent up energy.

  10. Cory,

    Cheap shots at the Americans isn’t the ideal rhetorical strategy ~ given the number of Canadians in the US entertainment industry, one might suspect that the problem is not so clearly a question of US interests riding roughshod over the rights of the Canadian people.

    I won’t argue in favor of the legislation, but the near-constant modeling this as a US / Canadian confrontation does a disservice to the complexity of the situation, and thus undercuts your argument’s credibility.



  11. What the fucking goddamn zombie jesus is this shit. I thought we lived in a free country.

    I thought that we as Canadians took pride in how our veterans fought for our freedom, and now, it looks like they fought for their families to be fined by the government for downloading music.

    I thought we as Canadians were smarter and just a little more open to free thought and would’ve learned from recent US history and the buyout of their government piece by piece… And stopped big money from taking over.

    But no, in the end they’ll just shove it down our throats and tell us we like it.

    What in the fuck is it going to take to remove this corruption from our governmental systems?

    This dangerous threat to our freedom, this… Prentice… Must be stopped!

  12. this whole thing is impressive. So, if you download a song that’s 99cents the fine could be up to $500 from the college kids fund?. We used to believe in education and a free country, so now instead of big brother , we have the big bully who’s not even government and dictates how the government should act.

    Fine, you want to go after “illegal ” downloading, do it in a REASONABLE matter. There are lots of ways in how to achieve this.

    if you were to take an external observer, this whole going after the college fund would make no sense. What are parents supposed to do?, TURN OFF the internet so that their kids don’t download anything and their college fund remains untouched?.

  13. Cory —

    I use the term Public Domain because everything you have argued for over the last 10+ years since I’ve heard you talk about the subject, you pretty much want the abolition of copyright. As such, without copyright, it would be public domain…only you use the copyright to throw your work into licensed facsimiles of PD (other than caveats such as attribution and commercial restrictions apply).

    Personally, I LOVE Public Domain. I put many of my old software titles over the years into this (I find it more honest than CC or GPL…which I’ve also used when I’ve needed to keep a business advantage).

    I don’t know much about Canadian copyright, but the exact same arguments you make for American copyright are cut and pasted, so I figured they were. I’m all about fair use. I believe you should be able to copy a work and give it to a friend…hell, when I was a software developer in the 80s, I’d write the fair use right into the terms of the agreement where I allowed multiple computers in one location, or the ability to share it with a single friend (and later the book license…software is like a book…you can loan it out, but only one person has access to it at a time…I don’t know whose concept that was but I liked it).

    With music, I could care less if someone gave copies away to their physical real life friends…but c’mon…sharing that same song with a million of your closest friends that happen to be on your social website? No where close to fair use.

    Personally, I don’t have a dog in the fight…I saw the reality years ago and realized I needed to go towards works for hire. When I write a song these days, I sell it to the artist I’m working with outright. His to do whatever he wants to do. Hell, the only time I even got upset over this was when an artist reattributed one to a family member trying to get into the industry. Then again, work for hire…I had to just let it go.

    So, if a Canadian kid put up a song…one that could arguably only be downloaded by a small amount of predefined friends…who cares. Put it on a publicly trackable fileserver? Different story.

    Honestly, there needs to be a median between you and the media companies. No one needs 150 years of copyright protection (which is how much some are going to get)…at the same time, there needs to be something to protect the artists so they don’t HAVE to find alternative routes of income for their tasks.

  14. #5

    If it was actually a just law, there would be a provision for the money to be paid to the artists through their publishing houses. Especially since the common argument is copyright infringement and guess who owns that copyright? Not the labels, who don’t hand over money won in US lawsuits, or money given to them from the Canadian Copying levy.

    Anyone who wants to argue that people shouldn’t be profiting off other people’s hard work should be vastly opposed to the record industry as a whole. Most artists don’t have even legit downloads in their contract so get paid nothing from them. Even when they do, most artists get next to nothing form sales anyway.

    And a disproportionate fine, while obviously intended at a deterrent will just serve to give a lot of money to people who in no way deserve it, kleep the artists starving, and ruin the lives of people who as of right now aren’t breaking any laws at all.

  15. Takuan: A hell of a lot of people. My parents, for one, unfortunately.

    I just cannot believe that a government that is currently averaging indebting their university undergrads $30,000 and climbing could fathom this sort of non-sensical garbage. Out of their fucking post-secondary savings?!

    Is there any other information you could link me to, I just actually cannot understand how this is logical. I love writing angry letters and making phone calls to my politicians.

  16. Clif Marsiglio, I’ve never once argued for the abolition of copyright.

    I haven’t “copied and pasted” anything about the my critique of the US copyright regime into the debate about the Harper bill.

    You really don’t know much about Canadian copyright — on that score, we agree. There’s no such thing as “fair use” in Canada (the thing you’re thinking of is “fair dealing” and it’s a radically different, though related, concept).

    What’s more, “private copying right” is not “fair use” or “fair dealing.”

    Look, you’re just making stuff up here. You don’t know anything about Canadian copyright law — and you haven’t paid close enough attention to the earlier posts on this to have an intelligent opinion on it.

    You just showed up to grind some kind of axe about “rule of law,” and when you discovered that this had nothing to do with “rule of law” you made up some more stuff.

    There’s lots of online resources through which you could educate yourself about:

    * Commonwealth copyright

    * Trade agreements and copyright

    * The WIPO Copyright Treaty of 1996

    * Fair dealing

    * Private copying rights

    What’s more, it’s pretty easy to find out what I favor for copyright reform (there’s a very long list of dozens of essays I’ve written on the subject here: — though you won’t any in which I advocate for the abolition of copyright — that also comes under the heading of “you’re making stuff up”).

    It’s also pretty easy to discover what the words “public domain” mean in this context, and how that differs from the various CC licenses I’ve used on my work (CC itself has lots of material on this subject).

    The world’s copyright systems are different. Knowing a little about US copyright law doesn’t mean you know much about Canadian copyright law.

    Copyright reformers have many nuances in their beliefs. Arguing (as I have) for limits on term and scope of copyright doesn’t make me a copyright abolitionist.

    Copyright itself is not an immutable “social contract” handed down on stone tablets by Victor Hugo in 1886. It is a dynamic system whose reforms have *always* come about because an older law made a new commonplace activity illegal (for example, the following practices and technologies were all illegal for years before copyright law was changed to accommodate them): making records, broadcasting records, cable TV, jukeboxes and VCRs).

    Hand-wringing moralizing about how kids are “violating the social contract” totally misses the fact that the social contract was written just last week by a bunch of giant entertainment companies who want to extract rent from said kids.

  17. Way to go, Jim. Let’s deter crime by wiping out kids’ college savings.

    I think I need to write that letter…

  18. Contact your MP on stuff like this if you don’t like where it’s going. If this goes through my MP is losing my vote… and I let her know that.

    Incidentally, there are no corporate political donations in Canada any more, so there’s no point pretending the Conservatives are in the back pocket of Big Business.

    If you want to do something about bad legislation you have to let your MP know what you consider bad legislation and why. They won’t protect your interests if your interests aren’t important enough to get you politically active.

  19. Hedonism Bot @ #21:

    “Incidentally, there are no corporate political donations in Canada any more, so there’s no point pretending the Conservatives are in the back pocket of Big Business.”

    True, the RIAA/MPAA gravy train that Bev Oda and other Canadian ministers of her ilk once fed off of may now be coming to an end.

    But that doesn’t mean that Canadian policymaking won’t continue to experience undue pressure by the U.S. government, the interests of which includes the RIAA/MPAA.

  20. The first time this came around I wrote the series of letters. To Jim Prentice. And the heritage minister. I offered my expertise as Canadian recording artist, song writer and Professional Engineer should they wish to hear from the public.

    I got a polite, thank-you-but-we-know-what-we’re-doing reply a few weeks later.

    Who was it said we’re a democracy for 15 seconds in the voting both and that’s it? Ain’t that the truth.

    So who else can we pester to have this stopped? It’s a minority government. Should we start lobbying the NDP and the Bloc and hope they topple the bill? We hear a lot about how Prentice and the Conversative ilk think when it comes to this sort of stuff, but what of the other two parties? Because ultimately the PCs have to convince one of those two parties to pass this, right?

  21. #22 – that’s why you have to apply political pressure on your MPs & political parties. They need your vote. If the Conservatives see that this will alienate a lot (to put it mildly) of voters, they’ll be more likely to reconsider it. It’s not enough to get mad about it. They have to *know* that you and your friends and your relatives and anyone you can tell about it will be voting on it.

  22. Cheap shots at the Americans

    If Canadians aren’t allowed to make fun of the US, I might feel compelled to stop making fun of Canada. It’s just not a good enough trade-off.

  23. This doesn’t affect most Canadians. Most people here have already paid for the right to download music when they paid the private industry tax on blank CDs and DVDs. This goes to the recording industry and, in doing so, it seems as though they have lost the right to prosecute in other ways.

  24. #24 – Well, I have already written my local MP and spoken to him twice. His response is that he is still “fact-gathering”.

    I have also written Prentice and Harper. From Harper’s office I got a polite form letter; from Prentice, nothing.

    Not a very spectacular result, but I hope every other Canadian reading this will at least do the same as I did.

    As Hedonism Bot wrote, “If the Conservatives see that this will alienate a lot (to put it mildly) of voters, they’ll be more likely to reconsider it.”

    Canada, GO!

  25. write to politicians by all means, that applies everywhere and for everything.

    I am afraid in the instance of Canada though, all that can be done is to wait until the current band of thugs and thieves are thrown out (not even guaranteed, given the fact that they were let in in the first place and abject spinelessness on the part of the Opposition has allowed them to stay past one window of opportunity). Poor Canada, you made the mistake of your neigbour and let full-on, out and out organized crime take the wheel.

    Really nothing that can be done for you. Try to remember next time: When given the choice between fool, thief and nazi, go with the fool.

  26. #26 – Isn’t in unclear and undisclosed at this point in time what the deal is with this legislation and the blank media levy? They can’t seriously be expecting both to exist can they? Pay a levy on blank media *and* get fined if you download music to that media?

  27. IRC @23,

    Of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, 127 are occupied by Conservatives. For a simple majority, if the Tories all show up and vote as a block then they only need 28 votes from the whole rest of the house.

    In general, the Conservatives have managed to act as if they had a majority, simply by making every trivial little thing a “confidence motion” at the first sign the official opposition might be doing their sworn duty. At that point, the Liberals contemplate the possibility of an election, pee their collective pants, and vote the way the Conservatives tell them.

  28. Clif, I have no problem violating a contract I never agreed to.

    These copyright laws were negotiated behind closed doors. These aren’t local laws; Canadians were not consulted in their creation. These are foreign laws being imposed on the people of Canada by a government that is more concerned with earning the goodwill of a few hundred American lobbyists than with satisfying the needs of their own constituents.

    This copyright act is an attack on Canadian sovereignty. My beef isn’t with the content of the law but with the manner in which it was crafted; it’s an assault on the right to self-determination of the Canadian people.

  29. What’s more, it’s pretty easy to find out what I favor for copyright reform

    Sorry Cory, but we’re going to have to revoke your citizenship. You know the penalty for dropping the “u”. Especially when you’re talking about something Canadian.

  30. These are foreign laws being imposed on the people of –insert name of country– by a government that is more concerned with earning the goodwill of a few hundred American lobbyists than with satisfying the needs of their own constituents.

    That’s a one-sentence description of world politics, eh?

  31. Right on #32. Canadian Nationalism isn’t on Harper’s Reform party Agenda – its Americanization all the way.
    Who votes for Harper ? The same people who supported Brian Mulroney’s PC Party, that is Alberta-firsters (you know the Canadians who are benefiting most fromAmerica’s destruction of Iraq and its oil business) and Quebec Nationalists ie Separatists – both get more when Canada is weak, and both have been led to believe that they would be better off under American Rules…
    Certainly ambitious Quebecois and Alberta Separatists know that they’ll be Bigger Fish if Canada falls apart…first step seems to be an extra-Constitutional attempt to establish a popularly-elected second chamber based on regions to contest decisions by the House of Commons, and further weaken Canada while strengthening Provincial Bigwigs…

  32. And yeah this is OT on copyright “reform” but that this is an issue in Canada at all at the present time tells you who Messrs. Harper et. al. are attending to…I’m pissed on the process here and the people running it . I have not detected any great pressure on the streets of Canada for copyright criminalization, but I usually do feel pressure for a hand-out ( why aren’t my taxes helping these people, huh?)
    gee wonder if the ex-Foreign Minister’s ex-girlfriend’s ex-husbands and ex-paramours had enhanced profit margins due to the illegal unregulated nature of certain herbs that I will not name here…I wonder if they paid their taxes?…you know the stuff Harper et. al. are really champing at the bit to legally hammer, they’re already starting to seize property, they want all the joys testing [they have used our “War on Afghan Drugs” as an excuse to force the grunts to submit to such] (and the phase-red business party dismantled the Ontario Human Rights Commission to spite them for outlawing drug testing) brings and in addition the right (nay, the duty) to break up families and ruin livelihoods…to show their “law-n-order” colours (to their foreign business partners) – and (not by simple coincidence) so that cops/prisons/tasermakers/pushers/bikers/rats/dealers can make some money.
    For a case in point, observe the Feds attempt to dismantle the East-Side Van Safe Injection Site – and the weird fury granting the Courts’ findings in that matter (much like a “states-rights” argument in fav of Fed crackdown on medicine in Calif) about “the Will of Parliament” ( This, in the context of Regulatory, Administrative action by a Minority Government!) – in (planted? orchestrated?) Letters to the Editor in Newspapers throughout the Land.
    Takuan is right on these guys, they’re crooked and rotten through and through, true sociopaths who fortunately have not the power to unleash the human suffering that their Southern brethren have unleashed throughout large parts of the World (for fun and profit..)

  33. Bah. Read “greeting” for “granting” in my ranting above.
    And I apologize I really should just buy a soapbox and head on downtown…

  34. IRC@30: I can’t see any reason for the Conservative party to admit the imperfection of the blank media tax, just because it may have a more vile successor.

  35. quick note: I feel especially pissed because my MP is one David Emerson, who won his riding last election on one party ticket, then within weeks switched sides. So he obviously has no interest in what his constituents think.

    I wonder if I have any recourse at all until the next election , by which time this law will either have passed or not.

  36. @39

    Nope, unfortunately not. Emerson has made it clear he doesn’t intend to run for re-election and couldn’t give two shits what people think of him.

    Everyone else, write your MP and (especially if they’re a Liberal) wave the spectre of Sam Bulte in their face.

  37. RE #40 Right on…even better phone your MP about this and voice your opposition. Canada still has a small enough pop that your voice will be heard, unlike (it seems) our neighbours to the South, but yet not so well as in some of the even smaller Democracies…
    Our neighbours have to get back to the idea that all people regardless of station position or accomplishments (and especially the size of their pocketbooks) deserve and ought to be heard on any issue of public interest. In fact the US Gov should be using our comm/info Tech not to spy but to enable and encourage public participation by all citizens especially the Majority ie those whose lives get harder and harder the more the Nation moves to the Right….that the Tech is being used to reduce People’s liberties rather than to expand all peoples’ choices in this Life is a Crime against our better natures and a betrayal of our hopes for the kindness gentleness and sociability of the Future…

  38. My forgoing post is a crime againsst the Rules of Capitalization (spelling that is).
    Please do mental edits so that it makes the most sense to you…

  39. Punitive damages that would ruin most households and will barely show up as a line item on a major label ledger (and will likely never make it to the artists, anyhow) are shameful. Especially since sharing music is not new, just proliferating.

    Also, why the distinction of removing funds from an education fund instead of just imposing a fine? (Either of which I vehemently oppose.)

    Ever since my first record, I’ve despised the notion of buying an entire album to get a few good songs. The RIAA has used this method of teasing/withholding to build itself to a monster. And, now that the same masses that have propelled so many talentless idiots into stardom have begun taking matters into their own hands, they want to punish them instead of winning them back.

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