Canada's Upcoming Copyright Fight


Copyright law is considered to be a dull matter that most don’t bother thinking that it matters to them. Current copyright law was brought into existence in the days before everybody got connected to the Internet. Copyright law as it applies to online content has been determined by a patchwork of judicial decisions. Proposed changes to Canada’s copyright legislation could potentially change how people use their computers, record and playback TV shows, just about every way people use technology could be in for legislated change and not for the better.

The big media corporations are going to be looking to restrict or eliminate existing fair use provisions that allow for time shifting content like TV shows and audio programming or Device shifting watching or listening on any device that can play video or audio other than the device that recorded it. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters is already demanding mandatory use of the Broadcast Flag, a controversial technology that gives broadcasters the power to decide what devices are allowed to record content. For example a broadcast network can use the Broadcast Flag to allow PVR’s such those rented by cable and satellite companies or TiVo’s to record TV shows but devices like DVD recorders would be banned from making a recording.

The objective of such sweeping restrictions that the media corporations favor is to make people pay again and again for the same music, movies and TV shows people may get to record their TV shows on a PVR but then would have to pay for a copy that is heavily protected with Digital Rights Management watch on a computer and then pay again for a copy for an iPod or some other portable media player.

The model that many in the media industry wants the Canadian Government to follow is a law that has been on the books in the United States for the past decade the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has been the most hated legislation by power users of technology. Under the DMCA taking apart a device to see how it works, a practice called reverse engineering was made illegal. Personal Computers were made plentiful and affordable because of reverse engineering. Had the DMCA had been in effect thirty years ago everybody who uses a Windows PC would have to have a computer made by IBM.

If there is any good news is that there is already resistance to proposed changes to copyright legislation. A Group on Facebook a popular social network site with members called "Fair Copyright for Canada" with over 36,000 members opposed to the proposed copyright act caused industry minister Jim Prentice to withdraw a draft bill before first reading. It is widely believed that the bill will be revised and re-introduced. Similar copyright bills were introduced under previous Liberal governments but were killed on the order paper when the 2004 and 2006 elections were called.

There is no doubt that creators need legal protection so that they can make a living from creative endeavor, but any changes made to copyright legislation must not be a cave in to greedy media corporations that punishes end users for what is now covered by fair use provisions.


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