Canadian DMCA is worse than the American one

Canadian Industry Minister Jim Prentice introduced his answer to the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act today as planned, and it's even worse than the US DMCA. The Canadian DMCA allows every single exception to copyright to be eliminated by adding DRM: whatever the law allows you to do, a corporation can take away, just by using DRM to prevent you from doing it. Breaking DRM is illegal, unless you fit into a tiny, narrow, useless exception for security research.

It used to be that Parliament got to write copyright law. Now, it's Hollywood companies, who get to overrule Parliamentary law with whatever "business rules" they put in their DRM.

Michael Geist has the depressing analysis. Makes me want to cry. Watch this space for tips on getting in touch with your MP to make sure that this farce dies in Parliament.

1. As expected, Prentice has provided a series of attention-grabbing provisions to consumers including time shifting, private copying of music (transfering a song to your iPod), and format shifting (changing format from analog to digital). These are good provisions that did not exist in the delayed December bill. However, check the fine print since the rules are subject to a host of strict limitations and, more importantly, undermined by the digital lock provisions. The effect of the digital lock provisions is to render these rights virtually meaningless in the digital environment because anything that is locked down (ie. copy-controlled CD, no-copy mandate on a digital television broadcast) cannot be copied. As for every day activities like transferring a DVD to your iPod - those are infringing too. Indeed, the law makes it an infringement to circumvent the locks for these purposes.

2. The digital lock provisions are worse than the DMCA. Yes - worse. The law creates a blanket prohibition on circumvention with very limited exceptions and creates a ban against distributing the tools that can be used to circumvent. While Prentice could have adopted a more balanced approach (as New Zealand and Canada's Bill C-60 did), the effect of these provisions will be to make Canadians infringers for a host of activities that are common today including watching out-of-region-coded DVDs, copying and pasting materials from a DRM'd book, or even unlocking a cellphone. The liability for picking the digital lock is up to $20,000 per infringement.

While that is the similar to the U.S. law, the exceptions are worse. The Canadian law includes a few limited exceptions for privacy, encryption research, interoperable computer programs, people with sight disabilities, and security, yet Canadians can't actually use these exceptions since the tools needed to pick the digital lock in order to protect their privacy are banned. In other words, check the fine print again - you can protect your privacy but the tools to do so are now illegal. Dig deeper and it gets worse. Under the U.S. law, there is mandatory review process every three years to identify new exceptions. Under the Canadian law, its up to the government to introduce new exceptions if it thinks it is needed. Overall, these anti-circumvention provisions go far beyond what is needed to comply with the WIPO Internet treaties and represents an astonishing abdication of the principles of copyright balance that have guided Canadian policy for many years.



  1. Worse yet is the way they’ve let the media obsess over the Aboriginal apology so they can overlook the Dream DMCA.

  2. Can someone put together a list of media contact emails or something that we can hit in addition to the usual MP-spamming?

  3. As a programmer, I suspect these bogus laws intend to cover a loophole. If a programmer attempts to implement DRM and fails (meaning a “hacker” could “exploit” their failure), does the law cover the letter of the programmer’s code? Or does it cover the stated intent of the programmer’s client – to enforce via DRM beyond normal copyright boundaries?

  4. Here’s a response I had back from Ministers Prentice and Verner to an email I had sent a few weeks back with my concerns. Nice to see they didn’t even bother quoting my initial message back to me (meaning: “Here’s another email address to put on the ‘to placate’ list”). And we’re in Mr. Prentice’s riding in Calgary! Sheesh…

    The Government of Canada has introduced Bill C-61,
    Act to Amend the
    Copyright Act. The proposed legislation is a made-in-Canada approach
    that balances the needs of Canadian consumers and copyright owners,
    promoting culture, innovation and competition in the digital age.

    What does Bill C-61 mean to Canadians?

    Specifically, it includes measures that would:

    • expressly allow you to record TV shows for
      legally purchased music onto other devices, such as MP3 players or cell
      phones; make back-up copies of legally purchased books, newspapers,
      videocassettes and photographs onto devices you own; and limit the
      “statutory damages” a court could award for all private use copyright

    • implement new rights and protections for
      tailored to the Internet, to encourage participation in the online
      economy, as well as stronger legal remedies to address Internet piracy;

    • clarify the roles and responsibilities of
      Providers related to the copyright content flowing over their network
      facilities; and

    • provide photographers with the same rights as

    What Bill C-61 does not do:

    • it would not empower border agents to seize
      iPod or
      laptop at border crossings, contrary to recent public speculation

    What this Bill is not:

    • it is not a mirror image of U.S. copyright
      Our Bill
      made-in-Canada with different exceptions for educators, consumers and
      others and brings us into line with more than 60 countries including
      Japan, France, Germany and Australia

    Bill C-61 was introduced in the Commons on June 12,
    by Industry
    Minister Jim Prentice and Heritage Minister Josée Verner.

    For more information, please visit the Copyright
    Process website at

    Thank you for sharing your views on this important

    The Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., Q.C., M.P.

    Minister of Industry

    The Honourable Josée Verner, P.C., M.P.
    Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women
    and Official Languages and Minister for
    La Francophonie

  5. Plutoxin: I bet that’s exactly why they’ve tabled the bill now and not later.

    Btw, anyone else having trouble accessing Geist’s site?

  6. I’m jealous that Canada is such a small community that democracy still (potentially) works.

    Mail me some buds.

  7. My response to the form-letter response I got (same as above):

    Ministers Prentice and Verner,

    I appreciate the reply to the concerns of Canadians, but from what I’ve interpreted in the bill, there are no real provisions in the bill for breaking digital locks for legitimate consumer reasons. Large content producers have shown again and again that they are cannot be trusted to maintain DRM servers in the long run and will abuse DRM flags to prevent Canadians from legally transferring and place-shifting their legitimately purchased media.

    As you may have heard in the news, there have been a number of instances where DRM authorization providers have disappeared, leaving the authorized music and/or video useless after a reformat (or in some cases, instantly).

    Here are a number of examples in recent history:

    Due to an earlier decision to switch DRM providers, MLB’s new content and old content are managed by different license authentication servers. After making the switch, MLB has arbitrarily decided it has no intention of honoring its earlier commitments to fans who purchased downloaded games under the old system, thereby rendering many fans shut-out.

    Google discontinued their paid videos on Google Video, stranding their customers with the message “After August 15, 2007, you will no longer be able to view your purchased or rented videos.”

    Microsoft discontinued their PlaysForSure authorization servers recently, disabling the ability of legally purchased music to be played after a reinstall:

    Additionally, consumers who legally purchased the now-defunct HD-DVD-format disks may find that once their current HD-DVD players are broken down in a few years, they will not be able to legally play or format-shift their data.

    Any copyright bill introduced in Canada must allow all Canadians to break DRM for legitimate, fair-use purposes. Anything else will end up with consumers holding useless paid-for media, while those who pirate the material enjoy it with no restrictions.

    By removing the ability to enjoy legally purchased media to its full potential, the media companies are reducing Canadian citizen’s perceived value of their product. If you purchase a CD on iTunes for $10 and it disappears in a few months, would you want to keep purchasing music?

    Thank you for your consideration,

    Matthew Mastracci
    (address snipped)

  8. Alys: Exactly. Sure I’m not alone in find the use of the apology in this manner a bit digusting.

    And yes, the Geist’s site has been hammered good today. Maybe a good sign that lots of people want to learn about C-61? One can hope.

  9. So this law screws over blind people too? I hope the media picks up on that. No one looks good when they’re kicking blind people.

  10. As per the usual with this Conservative government, by introducing it so late in session, they are employing what they believe to be sly tactics they hope will help to get this bill passed. It’s not expected to reach second reading before the house breaks for the summer, therefore it won’t be voted on until sometime in the Autumn. They are counting on the furor to have died down as attention shifts and drifts during the summer so they can slip it through relatively unnoticed in a few months time. They’re expecting apathy and acceptance to set in by then.

    The key to opposing this will be making sure the media attention and public outrage doesn’t wane during that time. Especially since the opposition party is anything but these days, terrified to bring down the current government with a non-confidence vote because they know they themselves chose an ineffective leader. If your MP is Liberal, don’t expect them to help you out on this one. It’s going to be up to the people.

  11. Wow, Newsnet’s coverage is astoundingly bad. A single IP Lawyer extolling the virtues of C-61. At least Dan Matheson is asking a few questions.

    Oh good, at least I now know that *any* circumventing of DRM is illegal. Guess that means my xbox ripping a drm’d disc is going to get me fined.

  12. I received the same e-mail reply from Prentice’s office as others here. Essentially, its argument boils down simple-minded denial of what the bill actually says or does.

    Now if only I could get my MP Wajid Kahn to notice. Khaaaaaaaaaaannnn!!!

    (Note, the above Star Trek reference will likely be illegal under the new bill.)

    So far, the press reaction is mixed:

  13. #16 – “It’s not expected to reach second reading before the house breaks for the summer, therefore it won’t be voted on until sometime in the Autumn.”

    As far as I know all bills die when the CPC prorogue or end the session of Parliament. Therefore it would have to be re-introduced in the Fall

  14. #16 – “It’s not expected to reach second reading before the house breaks for the summer, therefore it won’t be voted on until sometime in the Autumn.”

    As far as I know all bills die when the CPC prorogue or end the session of Parliament. Therefore it would have to be re-introduced in the Fall

  15. #16 – From the Globe and Mail – “The federal government announced its intention to update the Copyright Act in its 2007 Speech from the Throne, and promised a number of organizations in the recording and media industries that the legislation would be tabled before the House of Commons breaks for the summer.

    However, with Parliament set to break soon, sources say the legislation is expected to be left to die by the minority Conservative government”

  16. @ #21-23

    The CBC worded it a bit differently:

    “The government said a second reading of the legislation wouldn’t occur until the next sitting of the house. With the government breaking soon for the summer, such a reading would not occur until the fall.”

    and I paraphrased them a tad too literally in my comment.

  17. #24 – I believe the bill only dies if they prorogue Parliament, which is like a re-start.

    According to CPAC

    “Rumours are swirling that the Harper government may be tempted to prorogue Parliament – end the sesion and kill all outstanding bills – and put off the return of Parliament until after the Conservative Policy Convention in November. ”

  18. #24 – I believe the bill only dies if they prorogue Parliament, which is like a re-start.

    According to CPAC

    “Rumours are swirling that the Harper government may be tempted to prorogue Parliament – end the sesion and kill all outstanding bills – and put off the return of Parliament until after the Conservative Policy Convention in November. ”

  19. So in essence it would seem that this is a trial balloon piece of legislation? Introduce it, see what objections Giest et al have and then polish it for reintroduction with a new coat of lipstick on the pig?

  20. So in essence it would seem that this is a trial balloon piece of legislation? Introduce it, see what objections Giest et al have and then polish it for reintroduction with a new coat of lipstick on the pig?

  21. I just dropped off a printed letter (how quaint!) at my local MPs office. They seemed to have received advance warning about possible response to the legislation because they guessed it was about C-61 without my actually saying so.

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned in the analyses I’ve read is that providing a search tool that leads to infringing material has been made illegal in this bill. In other words, Google, Yahoo, MSN Search, the lot of them, they’re all criminalized by this.

    As I said in the letter, “it’s like accidentally banning General Motors”.

  22. Written letter to my MP in an envelope and about to go out and mail it, luckily it doesn’t need a stamp, cause I don’t have any on me. Yes it has time shifting and format shifting, which is great, but just a whim of industry and every allowance in this piece of legislation can be taken away with what can be considered a plastic luggage lock on everything produced. BAD LAW NO TABLE!

  23. Wow, I was just thinking about making a response, and clicked to add my comment, and what did I get? A message from Ministers Prentice and Verner.

    Talk about service!

    But it does not address my main concern: if a Canadian releases a piece, does the government guarantee that it will never be classified as RESTRICTED?

  24. Wow!

    More than service.

    Somebody, and we all can think who, has tried to take over my computer.

    Now, if it wasn’t Boing Boing, who was it?

    PS, they’re still trying.

  25. You know common sense would say to me that if it is LEGAL for me to make a copy of something it should be illegal for a company to prevent me from making one ie DRM.

  26. The good news: this law was the top story on my local channel’s 6pm news.

    The bad news: they only talked about it as a bill to stop file-sharing.

  27. Ask for the sun, and “settle” for the moon. They, after the uproar brings on the bargaining phase, will ask for merely American-style strictures, and everyone will “compromise” — on the American DMCA.

    Of course, if they do manage to get the sun, they’ll take it. But they are aiming for the moon.

    Give then neither.

  28. Here is a list of common activities which will become illegal

    1) Television Recording (when ‘NO COPY’ broadcast flag is set)

    Digital broadcasts allow for this flag, and you can bet the broadcasters will make more and more use of it, requiring you to pay extra for the priviledge or recording it.

    2) watching out-of-region-coded DVDs

    There are no exemptions for breaking DRM even on your own purchased media.

    3) Ripping DVD to computer, juke box or ipod

    Even if you convinced the judge that DVD encryption was not effective. The provision in the act dealing with time and format shifting is very specific regarding what media is applicable and DVDs and BlueRay are not in the list.

    4) Hacking game machines (XBOXs) to install Linux or other software

    Did I say there are no exemptions for breaking digital locks for us normal people?

    5) Unlocking a service provider locked cell phone

    See above

    6) Ripping CDs (which will increasing be sold with digital locks)

    Not all CDs have digital locks but many do and you can bet more will.

    7) Keeping a library of recorded TV shows.

    This is a great one. In their time shift exemption the bill is quite explicit in saying that you cannot keep the copy “longer than necessary in order to listen to or watch the program at a more convenient time”. So get rid of those old MacGyver tapes you’ve been keeping and any other TV shows you’ve recorded. New or old. You’re breaking the law if you still have it after watching it once.

  29. All the news coverage I’ve read (or viewed) so far from my local news sources have been lacking in proper information about the bill. They’re making it sound like it’s so brilliant because it makes time-shifting legal.

    I’m disgusted that if this bill goes thru, my usage of a DeCSS program to rip my DVDs to my iPod, or even to watch other region DVDs on my cracked player will be illegal. I could be paying $20K for doing what I’m doing right now.

    I’ve sent e-mail to my MP (Rob Anders), and CC’d Jim Prentice and Josee Verner. However, the only communication I’ve received from any of them was that standard email that went out from the Industry office.

    Scott Brison (Liberal critic) seems to have been vocal about the government’s bill, but unfortunately the news cut his words short, while giving Mr Prentice a lot of time to talk about how he raised 3 teenagers.

  30. Another one I missed

    8) Posting family vacation photo on flickr (taken by kind stranger)

    This bill repeals the section dealing with photo copyrights. Previously the owner of the film was the first copyright owner. Now it will be the photographer. This means that it is always the person behind the camera who owns the picture not the camera owner, so be careful who you ask to take a picture of you on your next vacation.

  31. Wow. No somebody has tried to force they way in thru nm_applet. Failed again.

    Talk about Big Brother.

  32. From the Minister Prentice Spam mail out

    “Our Bill is made-in-Canada”

    Indeed. As if that is any excuse.

  33. Letter just sent to the Ministers of Industry and Heritage in response to their e-mail regarding the new bill:

    Dear Ministers,

    Thank you for the update.

    Unfortunately, the proposed bill contains one major aspect that contradicts any claim to “balance”: the extremely restrictive anti-circumvention provisions. Although the law will allow owners of machines who are involved in certain narrowly-defined areas of research to actually enjoy the “use and disposal” of their property, you have effectively prevented the following:

    1) legal fair-use by ordinary Canadians of digital media that they own if it has been digitally locked by the distributor

    2) reverse engineering by anyone who is not in one of your narrowly-defined exceptional categories.

    You’ll forgive me for doubting the wisdom of politicians and bureaucrats when it comes to determining the appropriate exceptional categories and who is actually in them. As conservatives, you will be familiar with the idea that the government is rarely right when making determinations of this kind.

    The prevention of legal fair use of media that has been digitally locked is far more troubling to me, as an author and as a citizen. It seems to me unreasonable that ordinary Canadians should be prevented by private corporations–mostly American–from exercising their legal rights with regard to media that they own.

    Fair use rights are central to sound copyright law. Bill C-61 is nothing less than at attempt to surreptitiously strip Canadians of those rights by handing our freedom to exercise them over to private media companies. Nothing like the proposed anti-circumvention provisions are required to fulfil Canada’s obligations under WIPO, and they certainly do not serve the interests of Canadian artists, innovators or consumers of digital media. They therefore should be removed.

    Canadians need a copyright law that explicitly states, “Circumvention of digital locks is permitted for the purposes of exercising a person’s Fair Use Rights with respect to digital media that they legally own.”


  34. Reading the continuing saga of this bill just makes me feel nauseous, then pissed.

    I just sent the form-letter linked in comment #19, and sent a big email to everyone I know asking them to do the same (thus violating my personal rule of never sending bulk emails).

    I often have trouble explaining the gravity of these situations to others, mostly because I lean pretty far to the left, and I suspect I come off sounding like a wacko to more moderate folk.

    Any tips on the best way to convince ordinary Canadians that this is really bad for them, too?

  35. Do we have provisions in Canada to recall MPs? If we do, I can’t believe it hasn’t happened with Prentice yet.

  36. Yet another attack.

    But I can’t tell if its Canadian or some virus on Boing Boing (they seems to have a lot lately).

  37. Well, it’s confirmed; the virus in not on Boing Boing. It’s the Canadian government that is intercepting packages that causing all the nasty delays and file stealing.

    That would raises their violations to five. Pity them.

  38. Yeesh – so embarrassing to wake up Canadian today. I am heartened, though, by the coverage and response of Minister Prentice’s stoogery, but since the opposition seems to have disbanded sometime this winter, it might just go through.

    @Plutoxin the apology to Aboriginal victims of the residential schools was a significant act, and the media attention is justified.

    What is a new low in sleaze is Jim Prentice using the apology as cover to introduce the bill, he’s been scared away from doing by media coverage two times previously. The man has no spine before neither media lobbyists nor the attention of his countrymen.

Comments are closed.