Canada's sellout Heritage Minister ready to hand copyright to Hollywood

Michael Geist sez, "Reports in the Canadian media confirm what was reported in the blogosphere several weeks ago - out-of-touch Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore has won the internal fight for a Canadian DMCA. The reports say the Canadian government is likely to introduce the bill next week complete with digital lock provisions that mirror those found in the U.S. DMCA. The bill may also include some important new exceptions, but those will be subject to the use of a digital lock. In other words, they are new rights that come with a big caveat in that they can be eliminated anytime by a rights holder."

A translation for the layperson. In the USA, it's illegal to break a "digital lock," such as the one that prevents you from copying a DVD to your laptop or phone. This prohibition extends to activities that are otherwise legal: if there's a digital lock that stops you from buying unauthorized, third-party games or apps for your Nintendo Wii or Apple iPad, it's illegal to break that lock, even though all you're doing is buying copyrighted works from their authors (no copyright violations are taking place).

This has been the law in the US for ten years, and it's been an utter disaster. It hasn't stopped copying, but it has created monopolies through which hardware/service companies can lock out competitors and force creators to accept terrible terms in order to sell their works on their platform (see, for example, the terms on which apps are admitted to the iTunes Store).

Canada's Heritage Minister is so eager to kiss the ass of the American entertainment industry that's he willing to repeat the mistake, creating a Canadian version of this law. As a sop to the Canadian public (who overwhelmingly rejected this approach in a national consultation on Canadian copyright law), he's creating a few "exceptions" for copyright that give Canadians the right to do normal things like recording TV shows or ripping CDs.

However, he's also putting this digital locks business into play. So all of those exceptions can be overridden: if there's a digital lock (no matter how flimsy and ridiculous) that stops you from exercising your rights under copyright, those rights go away.

Nice work, Minister. Want some chapstick? All that puckering up for Hollywood is hard on a body.

National Post Reports "Heavy Handed" Copyright Law Coming Next Week


  1. My question is this: What is the US Media Industry holding over the Canadian Government to force this deal –> Closing Hollywood North?

  2. Harper and his gang of Armageddon loving Christian phlangists continue to drag Canada back into the dark ages. He continues to adopt failed American policies such as “tough on crime” and “tax cuts uber alles” and is hoping to backslide on abortion rights for women and gay rights. And he keeps going up in the polls. As the news man said in the Simpsons, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Democracy doesn’t work.”

      1. Read Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics for another, less politically motivated reason for crime rates going down. Perhaps hysteresis in social systems is NOT related to the actions of politicians, but the society where the feedback occurs?

  3. People of Vancouver, he’s your MP (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam). Please protest! Go to his constituency office and register your displeasure in person to his staff in your hundreds and thousands. Nothing else will get his attention!

  4. It would seem that for now we Canadians have to bite the bullet and with great and deep regret accept the fact that our federal government is comprised of theist fundamentlaists who carry a deep, dark desire to become American right-wing neo-conservative autocrats profoundly aligned with the American mega-corporate machine.

    It is a sad, frightening, desperate state of affairs for which I cannot at this time see a brighter light at the end of a long, long tunnel of despair.

    We, as a country, are overly gifted with an overabundance of conservative, narrow minded, theistic and parochial immigrants, and a countrified, simple-minded rural populace who just love our God squadish leaders. We are also cursed with a press that is monopolistic and more than happy to lie, deceive, and distort to appease the numb status quo of acquisition and corporate control of our society.

    Woe is us.

  5. It’s not at all clear that the DMCA has any bearing on breaking digital locks for running unauthorized games or software such as in the Wii or iPhone cases. The language of the law suggests that this is not the case. It’s a crime to circumvent a technological measure which effectively controls access to a copyrighted work. However, your iPhone or Wii is not a copyrighted work and the work in question is the unauthorized software, to which you already have access, just not the ability to run.

    Here’s the definitions from the US code:
    As used in this subsection—
    (A) to “circumvent a technological measure” means to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner; and
    (B) a technological measure “effectively controls access to a work” if the measure, in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work.

    Well, clearly, there’s no application of information, process, or treatment going on which allows access to that piece of software. Rather, the operating system of the Wii or iPhone is validating a signature on the work before it allows it to run. Both you and it already have access to that piece of software from the beginning and the processes carried out doesn’t give anyone access to it.

    The only way this could be considered “gaining access to a copyrighted work” would be if you considered the OS or firmware of the device to be copyrighted and protected by the signature validation process. This, however, is ludicrous because the firmware and operating system are stored unencrypted in flash ROMs and/or the RAM already and are freely accessible with hardware probing. It’s really only protecting access to the hardware.

    As such, the only way that the courts could rule that jail-breaking an iPhone is a DMCA violation is if they either completely failed to understand the law or the technology. Unfortunately, this is precisely what happened in the bnetd case, where they ruled that the reverse engineering a compatible on-line matching service allowed the bnetd developers to circumvent a protection measure despite the fact that all of the copyrighted work to which they were supposedly gaining access (the binary code and assets for the game) was already accessible to them (stored unencrypted on the game disc). This was a terrible decision reflecting either a misunderstanding of the law, of the technology, or more likely both. Still, although analogous, that decision is not identical to a ruling on running unauthorized software on a controlled hardware platform and the courts have not yet ruled on that issue.

    So, you’re jumping the gun a little in saying that the DMCA prevents this. Apple would certainly like you to imagine that it does, but that’s because it’s in their interests to cast jail-breaking a phone as illegal.

    1. The problem being that it’s impossible to unlock an iPhone such that it can accept 3d party software without unlocking it such that you can gain unauthorized access to a copyrighted work.

  6. This goes beyond the piracy debate, and what to do with pirates.

    This is about licensing corporations to write their own laws is what this is.

    Forget about everything you pay to *own* your stuff, forget about every piece of law that talks of your rights with your own stuff. Now as soon as a little orange “do not open” sticker gets slapped on, well all your property rights get sidestepped.

    The conservative party loves to talk about property rights. They usually fail to mention their selective definition.

    All part of the Harper plan. Big business is always right, so their vision of owning everything in your home and forcing you to pay out the ass into a monopolized subscription model for everything, is the way to go.

    It’s kind of like techno-sharecropping, nor neo-fuedalism. We no longer exist for any higher calling then to be milked for all we can possibly be worth.

  7. I hereby declare that I have a self-declared natural right to do whatever I want with any instrument that I purchase. I will blatantly, repeatedly and unrependently break this law whenever and whenever I feel like it. Furthermore I will actively encourage others to do so.

    When I purchase an item, it’s mine. It’s not up for debate. That’s the way it is, and if the law disagrees, I will break the law. If people believe in the rule of law, then they should oppose law like this, because it cannot, and will not, be enforced, at least in my case.

  8. If we are indeed merely “renting” information from the publisher/record company, then at any point we may decide we are “finished” with something. Does the cost of disposal or recycling of that thing then become the responsibility of the corporations who “own” that material?

  9. Looks like we’re headed for a summer election. Since the Conservatives aren’t doing what the people want and this is likely to piss them off, the Liberals might get enough ground to topple them.

    1. As far as I can tell, nothing upsets Canadians unless it’s presented properly. The Conservative party’s illegal and useless election to try and gain more seats cost way more money than Adscam, for instance, and yet there was only a tiny fraction of the outrage. Even proroguing parliament on a whim they’re still nearly as popular as they were before. Unless someone comes up with a good way of making this more memorable, I can’t imagine it would change much. I’m truly sorry.

  10. “Canada’s Heritage Minister is so eager to kiss the ass of the American entertainment industry…”

    Oh this explains the human centipede post, I get it now!

  11. “DMCA” — ???

    What’s DMCA ??? The way I learned things in J-School, (Journalism), you need to spell out an acronym unless it’s entirely in common usage, like “USA.”

    I’m guessing “Digital Media Copyright Act,” but I’m clueless as to what it is or how it works. (Actually, I Googled it.)

    So, are we going to baffle half our audience with “in-group” allusion? Do I really need to open another window and multi-task to access Boing-Boing?

    1. 1) I believe you mean “5% of our audience”. Google shows over 2000 hits for DMCA on It’s talked about so frequently here that any regular reader knows what it is.
      2) The only time the initialism appears is in a quote from Michael Geist.
      3) If you Googled it, how come you don’t know what it stands for? The first hit on Google for DMCA is the Wikipedia article for it which has the correct acronym expansion.
      4) The acronym expansion doesn’t really explain what it is at all and so wouldn’t really help out. Knowing that it means “Digital Millennium Copyright Act” doesn’t really tell you anything about it. If you want to know what it is, you’re going to have to Google it anyway.

      Also, I’m very proud of you for going to J-school. In the meantime, in the real world, stuff has been happening. And if you’re so out of touch with what’s been happening that you don’t know what the DMCA is, then yeah, you might just have to open another tab (*gasp*). Boingboing isn’t a complete book of world knowledge. If that’s unacceptable to you, consider reading magazines and newspapers rather than blogs.

    2. On BoingBoing, acronyms like DMCA and ACTA /are/ in common usage. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen DMCA spelled out.

      You guess was close, “Digital Millennium Copyright Act”.

      It is about copyright, and amoung other things it illegalizes the circumvention of DRM (Digital Rights Management), even if that circumvention if for legal purposes. The Digital Locks that Cory refers to are this DRM.

  12. Just how closely are the Canadians copying the American law? Would it be fair to say they are … (wait for it) … pirating it?

  13. No, no, no. See you’ve got it all wrong. The copyright industrial complex said they’re “to bring [Canada’s] copyright laws out of the 19th and into the 21st Century”! It’s not taking a step backward, it’s a happy step toward a brighter tomorrow!

  14. Whenever this pops up, everyone always says “write your MP”.

    That’s not going to do a lot of good. Are you a billionaire? Can you get your MP a cabinet position? No? Your MP is not all that interested in what you have to say.

    So write you letter. Send it to the vortex that is your MP’s office. But also send a copy of that letter to the newspapers. More than one newspaper.

    The corrupt bag of slime occupying the seat for your constituency will get your letter and assign some poorly paid assistant to push the button that coughs up a form letter thanking you for your interest.

    But someone working at a paper might think a few thousand letters is worth a story or two, you know? Maybe not, but it’s probably less of a black hole than your MP’s office.

    1. I don’t know about this issue in particular, but don’t be looking for a lot of help from the traditional news media. In Canada the only mainstream news media that has covered UBB, which is about to double our internet costs at all, is the CBC online.

      All the other news outlets (like CTV for instance… owned by Bell) have been silent.

      You’re right, writing one letter is probably not going to do it. But if you get two friends,,, and they get two friends… But heaps and piles of them might get their attention.

      @DarthVain An election right now is not a good plan.

      Currently, we have not seen the proposed legislation. But the previous legislation, Bill C-61 was very DMCA like. The assumption is that the new law will be the same as that.

      If we had an election right now, maybe we would get a yet another Conservative minority government.

      But maybe we would get a yet another Liberal minority government. Now, I haven’t read the Liberal Bill C-60, but I understand it was as bad at C-61. Another Canadian DMCA.

      But an election is always a gamble. It could be worse, If either Liberals or Conservatives get a majority, a Canadian DMCA will be a done deal.

  15. As far as I am concerned we can’t have an election soon enough. We should be having an election on the coat heels of the British, and using what happened over there, here.

    The liberals need to get their act together, and if they don’t think think can get more seats than the Conservatives then what needs to happen is a radical change. They need to sort their shit out, and actually stand for something, rather than just do whatever it takes to get power (the current conservative model), and merge with the NDP. If it came down to it, maybe even use the NDP leader.

    The country is slowly going to shit and no one is noticing. At least this way, either it will stop, or force a conservative majority, and then at least it will go to shit in a hurry and people will stand up and notice and perhaps do something about it.

    1. We very nearly got a coalition the last time Harper tried to use an election as threat to get his own way.

      However, Ignatieff is too fixated on getting a majority to share power with anyone else.
      This means we’re pretty much stuck with the Tories doing whatever they want until the Liberals change leaders again.

  16. American tough-on-crime policy has not been directed at burglaries, so looking at burglaries alone doesn’t mean much. America’s primary focus of tough on crime laws has been crimes involving drugs and firearms, and the crime that America is famous for is murder. Burglaries are a sideshow.

    Plus since crime rates have been going down in pretty much every developed country in the world, and most do not have tough-on-crime policies, tough-on-crime could be failing badly even if crime rates are declining. If I started drinking two glasses of scotch every morning and two at noon then there is a pretty good chance I’d get a raise this year but it would be very silly so suggest that that level of drinking at work wouldn’t be a hindrance to increasing my income.

  17. Honestly, are we really surprised? What does James Moore, Stephen Harper, or any other MP care about their constituents? They get seats through advertising (those attack ads that the Conservatives are so well known for). The money for those ads come from campaign donations. The donations that matter come from business interests with deep pockets. In the end, the only people they have to answer to are the aristocracy.

    We can write all the letters we want, but they don’t make a difference. In fact, we made quite a fuss, and they gave us only a passing acknowledgement before going ahead with the bill anyway. We can say we won’t vote for them, but we didn’t vote for them in the first place. There are plenty of people out there who vote in ignorance. The rural, religious people are happy that the Conservatives will force their beliefs on others. The rich are happy that the Conservatives are handing them (irresponsible) tax breaks. The people who actually need the government’s help — immigrants, the impoverished, the young, old, or sickly — are considered a burden on society by the Conservatives and are completely ignored.

    To make matters worse, the other parties aren’t any better. The Liberals sit on the fence doing nothing but giving big contracts to their buddies whenever the opportunity arises. The NDP spend more than they earn, driving the country into debt (not that the Conservatives have been any more thrifty lately), and they deliberately attack the rich who are financing it all, giving the Conservatives power. All of the parties have their own particular interests and couldn’t care less about the rest of the country. The Green Party seems to be the most balanced and interested in the whole country, but without a reputation and with a name that’s often construed as being either environmentalist or pro-cannabis, they’re lucky to grab a single seat.

    We live in a corporatocracy. It’s a natural evolution of our flawed democracy: corporations can amass enough wealth and power to influence politicians more than any disorganized population can. And corporations only care about one thing: the bottom line. They’ll finance whatever politician is willing to make laws that benefit them financially, no matter what rights those laws my impinge on.

    No company is more happy to finance this bill than the entertainment industry. For decades, movies, music, and video games have thrived on selling the same thing over and over again to the same audience. Remixes, special editions, anniversary releases, and all other excuses have been used to resell an old product at new prices. Disney started the process and every other company has been happy to follow along. We’ve only just begun to see competition lately, with companies actually trying to out-do each other. But all the while, they complain about lost profits. Nowadays it’s piracy, but it wasn’t so long ago they complained about showing regular priced videos to classrooms. They wanted special premiums for any kind of “public” performance. Before that, it was recording songs off of the radio (as if that were really replacing sales of LPs). Around the same time, they complained about bootlegs of live performances, even though they amounted to little more than tinny cassette recordings.

    Anyway they might be able to force us to buy the same content again, they will. They’ll strip away every right we have until we are forced to pay every time we hear a song or see a video clip. Already you can’t legally sing Happy Birthday at you’re friends’ birthday party, because that’s stealing from an artist (who is long since dead and whose “estate” is now making money off of his work). And our politicians will be happy to oblige, as long as they keep sending in those campaign donations.

    It’s well and truly fucked, but there isn’t a damn thing the rest of us can do about it, because nobody cares what we have to say.

    Which is why this law will be ignored just like the DMCA is. Sure, there will be plenty of ridiculous lawsuits, and content providers will constantly be harassed to take down “infringing” material, but the general populous will ignore (and mostly be ignorant of) these new laws and will just keep on doing what they have been doing. It’s exactly what happened in the USA: what was and still is normal behavior is now a crime, but nobody really cares; they just do it anyway.

    1. I understand where you’re coming from, and agree with much of what you say (although the writers of the music for “Happy Birthday” were women

      But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight it. We can’t afford not to fight it.

      Not just because its wrong, but because it won’t stop there.

      Just because the DMCA it isn’t prosecuted all the time doesn’t mean it can’t be. Once a law is on the books, the authorities can use it all the time or some or none; but once its there it can always be used.

      If you have a restaurant smoking ban in a city, it doesn’t work well, because smokers (and their friends and families) will just go to restaurants outside city limits. It can be economically damaging for the city restaurants. Smokers lighting up in city restaurants don’t get stopped by management because they can’t afford to lose more business. So it’s usually only when a bylaw officer is at the next table that it gets rigorously enforced.

      On the other hand, if you put the ban on the whole province, it will work much better and for the most part, you’ll find smokers standing outside smoking even during blizzards. Because unless you live on a border, there won’t be a feasible alternative.

      If you pass the DMCA to get rid of piracy, it won’t work well because of all those other jurisdictions that don’t have laws like it. So you lobby other governments to get them to do what you’ve done. You begin negotiations for a secret treaty called ACTA, where you convince friendly governments that they should do what you want. And in the meantime, you convince the UK to pass a Digital Economy Bill, and Canada to draft a Canadian DMCA.

      Because the more countries who already have laws that do what ACTA wants them to do, the more chance there is that ACTA passes.

      I mean, what’s the big deal? ACTA is only a few countries. Look at India… they just passed some great laws, right?

      The point is that if ACTA passes, the solidarity of the ACTA signatories can be used to intimidate the non-ACTA signatories to do what you want too.

      Once the whole world has DMCA laws, there will be no safety for people who are doing what my generation was allowed to do legally.

      But because most people are law abiding, they will follow the new laws, even if they don’t agree with them. And eventually it will be accepted. Countries like India may be economically coerced into changing their laws to match ACTA too.

      Once the new laws are everywhere it will be much more difficult to undo them. Worse, the corporations behind them will be even more powerful.

      If they haven’t already snuck in laws in allowing government spyware by then– not just on the Internet but on our home computers too– they will at this point. After all, now that the law is universal, it will need teeth to do the job.

      A nice little law outlawing private encryption would be on the menu too. (Encryption with government oversight could still allow Banks to encrypt) Think of the income the government could generate by licensing encryption. It would need a whole new arm of law enforcement to manage too.

      The next step in the war to wipe out pesky pirates (after some show trials putting a few depraved pirate children in jail) will be the final solution to digital piracy: making p2p networks illegal.

      After all, if there was no p2p there would be no piracy, right?

      So now, finally, p2p would become illegal. No loss, eh?

      Project Gutenberg: Gone.
      Maybe they could start selling those public domain ebooks.
      But hey, it’s OK, people can still buy ebooks from Google and Amazon.
      Loss to literature and literacy: immense

      Free-Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS): Gone
      Without p2p distros, many FLOSS apps will of necessity become LOSS since “free as in beer” may no longer be affordable.
      But that’s OK. The real pros like Microsoft and Apple are the ones that should be making software.
      Loss to technology: astounding

      Independent Music Recordings: Gone.
      With the loss of nearly free digital distribution, musicians will have to give up their dreams if they aren’t one of the few acts signed by CRIA.
      That’s OK. RIAA/CRIA are the experts after all. Let them tell us what music we want to listen to.
      Loss to culture: incalculable

      When enough countries have DMCAs and Digital Economy Bills, governments will start clamping down.

      Because they can.

      [That came out so well I’m off to rework the gist of it for my blog Stop Usage Based Billing, because UBB is another thing Canadians MUST fight against because it is yet another way to try and put the genie back into the bottle.

      The CRTC approved UBB as a way to economically force Canadians to use the Internet less. ]

  18. At this point either an election or prorogation would be best. I hate how it has been used but everything pending gets dropped.

    Someone commented about how writing to MPs is useless unless you are a well funded special interest group that likes to share money is pointless. I agree.

    So I’m resigned to the fact that I will soon become a pirate simply because I took that song I paid for on iTunes and moved it to another MP3 player that I own.

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