The Canadian SOPA – Bill C-11

Posted: February 1, 2012 in Current Events, politics

Once again I have found an excellent article outlining the implications of the copyright enforcement legislation, this time being proposed in Canada, Bill C-11.  It is a bit technical and I hope I’ve interpreted it correctly.

According to Michael Geist, a professor of copyright law, the Canadian Bill is a lot more even handed than the American one and distinguishes between commercial and non-commercial piracy.  I think that means that you’re not likely to get in a lot of trouble unless you are pirating in order to make a profit, meaning that personal sharing of files would be a small deal.

At the present time there does not seem to be SOPA like regulation enabling the blocking of Internet sites that are found to violate copyright law, but the music industry is lobbying hard to have amendments included that would do that.  The result would be that the government could insist that providers block access to things like Pirate Bay, but the provision would also allow them to block YouTube or even some Cloud facilities for copyright infringement as well.  The two problems with this, as I mentioned in the last article, are that such blocking could cause harm to the Internet network and that it is ineffective anyway since the block can be circumvented by just pitting in the IP address instead of the domain name. In addition, the music industry is demanding that the legislation include a provision that subscribers who are caught repeatedly accessing pirated material be denied Internet access after one or two warnings.  The government has stated that it is not interested in going that rout.

It seems that a big area of concern in Canada is the treatment of what is termed “digital lock” issues.  Digital locks are anything in software or hardware that encrypts or protects material from being copied.  This would include encryption keys necessary for software or the restrictions on an i-Phone that you get around by “jail breaking” it.  It may also include changing the format of a file such as making a video file into a avi file, or even ripping a DVD into mp3’s.   There is some concern that the law does not make enough of a distinction for people who may need to get around a digital lock for legal reasons.

The article points out that the computer game industry in Canada has been doing just fine over the past decade, with considerable growth both in revenue and jobs.  There doesn’t seem to be a need for any kind of stricter copyright protection in this area.  I know that when people finish with computer games, they get passed around the way that a book does.  Strictly speaking I’m sure that the industry would like to stop that as an example of copyright violation, but as long as there is no physical or digital copy made so that two people can use the same resource at the same time, there is no real violation.  If there is some kind of digital lock on the software, for example having to register it to one computer, the question then arises as to whether finding a way to hack that lock should be illegal.

The article points out that a similar argument exists for the music industry, and that strangling people with copyright enforcement is not the way the music industry should go in order to solve their problems.  Canadians use of legitimate digital retailers for music has increased steadily over the past five years and is, per capita, ahead of the U.S.

Generally, it looks like our bill is not quite as draconian as the U.S. bill, but pressure has to be maintained on the government to prevent lobbying for amendments that could make it more like SOPA.  Also, there are a few things to be fixed in it in order to better protect individual rights.  Keep the pressure on.  The government, if they know the consumers are watching and taking note, is more likely to vent their legislation in the arena of common sense.


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