A users guide to the copyright bill
Here’s how Bill C-61 will affect you—if it passes
Kate Kennedy and Chris Selley | Jun 16, 2008 | 13:28:19
According to Industry Minister Jim Prentice, Bill C-61 will bring Canada up to date with the rest of the digital world. Here’s how the fed's proposed amendment to the Copyright Act of Canada will affect you if it becomes law:
You would still be able to copy unprotected music to your iPod and computer so long as you paid for it—but only one copy for each device you own. For downloading unprotected music or movies that you haven’t paid for, you risk a $500 fine. But if you can convince a judge that you did it unknowingly, your penalty will drop to as little as $200. And you won’t be allowed to copy anything (music or movies) that comes with a digital lock. That means you can’t transfer a song from a protected CD to your iPod—even if you own the CD. If you hack a lock, you could face up to $20,000 in fines.
Breaking the digital locks, which are on pretty much every DVD at your local video store, will cost you up to $20,000 in fines. Programs that help you burn protected DVDs will be illegal to make, sell, rent or import.
You would be allowed to record a TV or radio show, but no more than one copy. And if broadcasters started putting up locks to block your PVR, you could face fines for hacking it.
You won't be allowed to unlock your cell phone to avoid roaming charges.
It's far from certain any of this will come to pass in the near future; the bill could very easily die on the order paper if and when Canadians go to the polls. But even if it does become law, neither its opponents nor its detractors are predicting a sea change in online habits—not when it comes to what would become "illegal" downloading music and movies, anyway.
C-61 is often criticized for too closely mimicking the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act—a restrictive framework under which the Recording Industry Association of America has sued, among other people, a single mother from Minnesota for US$3.9 million. But Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce at the University of Ottawa, notes that for all DMCA's terrible press, file sharing has flourished under its watchful eye and CD sales have tanked. The law "predates Napster," he says. "The entire peer-to-peer [downloading] phenomenon has existed with this kind of legislation in effect."
And unlike the RIAA, the Canadian record industry appears unwilling to bare its fangs against individual downloaders. Duncan McKie, president of the Canadian Independent Record Production Association, told Canwest News this week that he was more concerned with "the most egregious violators" than with casual listeners, and neither his organization nor the Canadian Record Industry Association advocates the sort of random lawsuits that generated much controversy in the U.S. As such, and with fines for garden-variety downloading topping out at $500—the cost of just 25 CDs, give or take—does C-61 have any bite to match its bark?
McKie, who believes digital sales will flourish under C-61 even if downloading doesn't abate, says it all comes down to whether "people look towards government for guidance with respect to how they behave." Demographic segments more concerned with staying within the letter of the law might be scared straight, but in general he acknowledges it's a tough question to answer. "Some might say they do, except when it comes to the Internet. Then they just do whatever the hell they want."