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.