Canadians: write to your MPs about Canada's disastrous new copyright bill

If you're a Canadian and you care about the future of culture, art, free speech and the Internet, you need to do something about the Canadian version of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that Industry Minister Jim Prentice introduced yesterday. This bill was prepared without any consultation with Canadian stakeholders: there was no input from industry, libraries, education, artists' groups, Canadian record labels, technology developers or citizens' groups. Instead, the bill was written to specs handed down by the US trade rep and ambassador (who kept on telling the press about the "assurances" they'd had from the Minister on the bill's features).

The bill makes it flatly illegal to break any kind of digital lock, or to violate terms in one of those absurd end-user license agreements that make you promise to agree to let the record industry kick your teeth in and drink all your beer, just for the dubious privilege of paying for a song at iTunes or watching a video on Viacom's website. This amounts to private law: under Prentice's plan, Parliament would get out of the business of making copyright law, simply enforcing whatever copyright law the entertainment industry itself dreamed up.

This is even worse than the approach the US DMCA took ten years ago, and look where that's got them. Tens of thousands of Americans have been sued, key innovative technology companies have been destroyed, computer scientists have been jailed, and what did it get them? Certainly not an end to infringement -- file-sharing is up in every country in the world. And for all the money the record industry has harvested from tech startups and music fans, not one dime has been paid to an artist.

Here's your chance to tell your Member of Parliament what you think. Kat sez, "Copyright for Canadians ) has a handy tool that makes it easy to email your MP about bill C-61. After you send your email, print it out, address an envelope and send a physical copy, too--no stamp necessary! Here's the address:

House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A0A6" Link (Thanks, Kat!)


  1. I’m thinking of writing the leader of the Liberal party to either grow a backbone and help stand up against this nonsense, or step down and let someone else represent us.

    He’s as much a part of the problem as Prentice or Harper.

    I think the information on this has to reach the people as well. The local news tonight just covered the downloading aspect. Perhaps there’s some way to simply explain to the avg Joe and Jane just how bad this Bill is.

  2. I heard on the radio today that the fine cap would be $500 (not talking about breaking digital locks, just normal copyrights infringement). If that’s true, while it still sucks to criminalize this, it is still MUCH better than the American laws.

  3. I support the Conservatives on a large portion of their platform but I let my (Tory) MP know that my vote in the next election depends on a vote against this.

  4. My name is Devin Baines. I worked on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for Members of Parliament and Ministers of the Crown for over 15 years.

    My advice? E-mail, yes. But print out what you e-mail and stick it into an envelope (all postage free) and send it to:

    Name of MP/Minister
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6

    E-mail tends to get ignored, considering the flood that gets received.

    Even hard copy mail only gets a cursory reply.

    Your best bet? Send a personalized hard copy to your local MP asking that he/she forward your comments to the appropriate Minister with a cover letter. That has the greatest impact since it is elevated to a higher level in the Ministerial Correspondence Unit.

    Trust me on this one. I know how this works. I used to do this for a living :)

    All it will cost you is the paper and the envelope. No postage required.

    Oh, and the C-DMCA sucks and as a life-long Conservative, Harper and his crew have just lost my vote. I have made my local MP painfully aware of this fact.

    I sent 5 letters today. You should do the same.

    Pay attention to Prof. Geist! Take his advice. Do what he suggests!

  5. @Sensoz –

    See what Geist says about this point: the fact is that prosecutions of P2P sharers are more likely to center around a user offering a file than downloading it, in which case the maximum is still $20,000. Even the spin-heavy notes on the Industry Canada site can’t help but note that that means you could be fined $20K for posting a file to YouTube, or giving your iPod (with songs) to a friend when you’d finished with it — see

  6. @2, Sensoz

    I believe the cap is $500 per file. I’m not sure.

    Anyway, top of the front page of the Ottawa Citizen today:
    Tories table hardline copyright rules
    ‘Made in Canada’ legislation is U.S.-style ‘locks and lawsuits’: critics

    Good to see it’s finally getting some attention. Previously I’ve only seen it mentioned in Michael Geist’s column in the business section.

  7. Is there a site that tracks the voting record of MPs on copyright-related issues?


  8. It’s all very fine and well to fight this politically, and I hope it makes a difference but..

    We have to boycott any and all products that are trying to take away digital rights from us.

    Kick these bastards in the pocket book, it’s the only place that will hurt.

  9. @8, Invictus:
    Good question. The Copyright Act was last amended in 1997. I’m not sure how much overlap there was with the current Membership of Parliament.

  10. stratosfyr @ #7,

    For all practical purposes it is $20,000, because anyone found to have illegally copied a file will as a matter of course be found to have circumvented some sort of copy protection to do so.

    Note also that even if the copy protection prevents you from exercising your rights under this bill, you will still be liable to a fine of $20,000 if you circumvent it. So any rights granted to you under this bill are at the discretion of the copyright owners.

  11. Unsolicited e-mail from the government appeared in my in box this morning. Perhaps they should table anti-spam legislation instead.

    The Government of Canada has introduced Bill C-61, An 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 later viewing; copy 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 infringements;
    implement new rights and protections for copyright holders, 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 Internet Service Providers related to the copyright content flowing over their network facilities; and
    provide photographers with the same rights as other creators.
    What Bill C-61 does not do:
    it would not empower border agents to seize your 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 laws. Our Bill is 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, 2008 by Industry Minister Jim Prentice and Heritage Minister Josée Verner.
    For more information, please visit the Copyright Reform Process website at

    Thank you for sharing your views on this important matter.

    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

  12. I got an email from a reporter from The Coast, Shawn Hayward. He is interviewing people in NS about this issue. Hopefully, this will now hit the mainstream bigtime. If we could just tie in somehow to that whole Hockey Night In Canada theme brouhaha we’d get lots of air time :).

  13. I can tie in the Hockey Night in Canada theme. Chris Moore, who is on the board of directors for Access Copyright, suggested that because in its negotiations with the copyright holder CBC was unwilling to pay the amount she was asking, CBC clearly holds an ideology that creative work should not be paid for. (Hat tip to Russell McOrmond.)

    But consider: he composer is only one contributor to the value of the Hockey Night in Canada theme. Much of that value has been contributed by the audience and CBC. Over decades of tradition the theme has become inseparable from a sport people love and the events of their lives. It has increased in value constantly since it was first played. This value requires it to be linked to hockey. Imagine: if the song were licensed to any other sport then nearly all that value built up by the fans would be lost. Similarly, if CBC does decide on a new theme, its initial value will be far less than it will be after years of playing – indeed that is the position this theme was once in when lower payments were negotiated.

    I’m not saying the artist shouldn’t negotiate for payment – of course she should. But it has become clear from some of the arguments by proponents of the C-DMCA that they think creators have a right to perfect control over any and every use of their works. Well, no. Not only is that fatal for freedom of speech, it also disregards the fact that the value of all popular works is in large part produced by the audience.

  14. this is a complex, difficult to understand issue.

    You are up against government, the people with the advantage of high ground and bigger guns.

    It must be boiled down to easy to transmit and comprehend information bites.

    A war for hearts and minds, we need slogans, mottos, catch phrases and to counter their outright lies, the occasional propaganda with barely enough truth to justify its viciousness.

    Play nice and they will crush you utterly.

  15. What you mean you all have not noticed CBC’s complete flunting of the ‘hockey night in canada’ theme? In the past week alone they have played every chance they get, on the radio, on tv. Heck even on last night’s NHL award there was a quip (albeit very subtle) where Ron McLean’s cell phone went off. Ringtone? The Hockey Night in Canada theme.

    I agree that CBC made the right decision in not wasting $4 million on that song. If it’s only going to cost them $500 each time they play it, well why wouldn’t they add it to the budget.

    Back to the DCMA – I have a feeling we are looking at a hopeless battle. In a perfect world we could remain a pirate paradise, but we won’t. If we could frame our DMCA on New Zealand rather than the US it would be wonderful…but New Zealand isn’t our biggest trading partner.

    I wish our politicians would grow some balls and remember that they are human too. I think most forget it when the get to office and can vote themselves a raise.

  16. “flunting”: the act of attempting to flaunt, but failing miserably (etm: “Flaunt” + “Flunk”, E.slang “to fail”

  17. I live in Mr. Harper’s home riding, the local area that votes him in as a member of parliament. I would suggest that, as he didn’t show up here during the last election to encourage folks to vote for him, he isn’t really interested in what the average Canadian thinks, says or wants.

    Perhaps it would be better for us all to save our postage and collect it into a reward for the first “Crime Stoppers” tipster that discovers and reports on illicit behavior of the file sharing sort among Steve’s ministers or family members.

  18. I would like to point out that it is $500 PER copyright owner and there are usually 3 copyright holders (songwriter/publisher/performer). So technically it is $1500 per downloaded file multiplied by the amount of songs.. Say 12 songs on an album.. that’s $18000 for an album. Now if you SHARE an album.. do the math.. but use $20,000 instead of $500. It is actually MUCH WORSE than American laws.

    Also, they will tell you and praise the fact that you can copy a song from a CD you legally purchased onto your ipod.. however what they’re not bragging about is that the technology to do that, to remove DRM, is made illegal under the bill.

  19. Also, this wont stop piracy, it actually encourages it. It’ll be a cold day in hell the day I have to pay for a CD *AND* for mp3’s of the CD I ALREADY PAID FOR.

  20. I have a good solution to avoiding the impending $20,000 fine:

    Don’t share your music online anymore.

    It was fun while it lasted. Nw lt’s ll grw p nd stp whnng bt hw w hv t ctlly py fr msc. This generation was totally spoiled.

  21. I doesnt like download unlicensed music I am buying originak disc, mp3 download is a thieving this is my idea..
    Thanks every body who had written comment

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