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.
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Published 9:58 am Thu, May 20, 2010