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Wednesday WTF: Conservatives convert Canada's creaky copyright

Graham F. Scott

computer animation with c.d.'s

Today’s the day! Heritage Minister James Moore will apparently introduce new legislation to update Canada’s copyright laws this afternoon. Michael Geist, the usual go-to guy for all discussion on this topic, has a quick introduction on his site. Basically, fair dealing will remain pretty strict; Geist has complimentary things to say about how internet intermediaries like ISPs will be treated; and then we get to the mess that is digital locks and DRM:

Third, the bill will include digital lock provisions, known as anti-circumvention rules.  These rules, which will allow Canada to implement international copyright treaties it signed over ten years ago, was the most-discussed issue during the consultation.  Thousands of Canadians argued that Canada should adopt a flexible implementation that renders it illegal to “pick a digital lock” for the purposes of copyright infringement, but preserves the right to do so for legal purposes.

Sources say the government has rejected the flexible approach in favour of the U.S.-style ban on circumvention (subject to a handful of limited exceptions).  If true, the problem with the approach is that it undermines both the new and existing exceptions.  For millions of Canadians, that means that their user rights will be lost whenever a digital lock is present including for CDs, DVDs, electronic books, and many other devices.  In the process, the balance will tilt strongly away from consumers and their property rights over their own purchases.

In other words, any fair dealing privileges that you could have enjoyed previously can be revoked if publishers include some  lame, already-cracked DRM junk in their products.

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