Canadian Copyright, v251?

MCMWednesday, June 2, 2010

The information out right now is all second-hand, but according to Michael Geist, the new copyright legislation looks to be a decent step towards not sucking. There needs to be more analysis and review, but at the moment, it would seem that the world is not going to end this summer. There are two things, on different ends of the suck spectrum, that I find interesting:

Statutory Damages. In most other parts of the world, if you download a single song from a shady site, you're treated the same as the underground mass-producing shop that turns out counterfeit DVDs to sell on street corners. To me, that was always the biggest absurdity of the whole copyright battle: media companies had a hard time hunting down these ACTUAL criminals, and instead wanted to make their money by suing their customers. This new rule ($100-$5,000 for non-commercial copying) is still a bit silly (why not just make them pay for what they actually took?) but it's a lot saner. I'm shocked and amazed that the government decided to go this route.

DRM. Yeah, I know, broken record... but given the almost-fair-dealing exceptions in this bill (parody, satire, education, time shifting, format shifting, backup copies, "YouTube" exception for non-commercial mashups), they're all essentially undone by the fact that breaking DRM is against the law. And the thing about DRM is this: it's broadly useless, but if it's backed by federal law, there's almost no reason to make it even half-good. You can send out a CD with piss-poor "anti-theft measures" and then cry foul if anyone tries to copy it to their iPods. The DRM provision needs to go away, if only so that it's a secondary concern in the face of fair dealing. It can be illegal for me to break the DRM on my DVD if I want to broadcast it around the world via BitTorrent, but if I want to copy it to my media server (format shifting) then DRM should take a back seat to my consumer rights. Better yet, ditch DRM altogether, leave noncommerical sharing alone, and go after the real bad guys who actually sell other people's stuff for profit.

All in all, this is a pretty good deal. I figure with a lot of Facebook protesting and some elbow grease from the opposition parties, we can either get some of this revised, or shut it down yet again. I was a little worries the government was ignoring the public consultations from last year, but apparently they're a bit more responsive than they appear.

I will undoubtedly post more on this subject as the process stumbles along. Be prepared for crankiness!

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