New copyright bill

So, the internet’s all abuzz about the new Canadian copyright bill that’s just been tabled. It looks pretty awful… as a musician and a computer geek, this basically seems targeted mostly at me, and people who use computers the way I do.

A few things that it would criminalize that I do regularly:

  • Copying a CD (legally bought) onto a computer or mp3 player
  • Watching a DVD on a linux computer (I don’t have a tv, and can’t watch DVDs any other way)
  • Watching non-region-1 DVDs (I don’t actually do this now, but I certainly might want to, and know many people that do all the time)

There are many other things that, while legal, I never do because I avoid any DRM-laden media because I disagree so strongly with it. For example, I will never buy anything from iTunes while Apple insists on DRM, even if it’s relatively easy to remove the copy protection. This law would make it illegal for me to play songs bought legally on iTunes on my computer or mp3 player.

My biggest complaint about this bill though isn’t that it makes me a criminal for something that I don’t think should be outlawed – I feel pretty safe in just ignoring the new penalties, since the chances of being actually caught are next to nothing. The main problem is that it completely changes copyright law, and puts the wrong people in charge of it.

See, the law says, essentially, that it is illegal to circumvent any copy protection device. So if I take a DVD, break the (largely ineffectual) copy protection contained on it and copy the movie onto my computer, I’ve commited a crime, even if I’ve acted completely within the bounds of copyright law, and even if the discs contents are not protected by copyright! In other words existing laws about what copyright restricts, and how long copyright lasts become pretty much meaningless, since whoever slaps any sort of copy protection onto their media basically can rewrite the law to work however they want. If they don’t want you to make a copy of a DVD to watch on your computer, they can prevent that, legally. If they want their copyright to last indefinitely, they just have to ‘make sure’ that the DRM doesn’t magically turn itself off after the copyright expires – i.e. they have to do nothing.

In short, this law says that our existing copyright laws (thousands and thousands of words in the current Act, and many more thousands proposed to be added by this bill) are useless and say nothing, since they can all be easily overridden by anyone putting the most simplistic ‘digital lock’ onto the work in question, and even worse, it means that these new pseudo-laws are not controlled by our lawmakers (misguided though they may be, at least we can – and will – vote them out of office when they make a horrible mistake), but they’re controlled by those tech companies that make the digital locks themselves. Why should we, as Canadians, grant that kind of power to American, Japanese, and other corporations?

I’m hoping that this nasty bill will lead to quickly getting rid of this government, but I expect nothing will happen until the Fall in any direction on this front. Parliament is supposed to adjourn soon for the Summer, and it would be ridiculously rushed for it to come to any sort of vote before then. Sigh.. another quarter of a year with this ‘strong leadership’ in place, wrecking our country.

One Comment to “New copyright bill”

  1. Zach says:

    Egads what a horrible bunch of tripe this bill constitutes.

    If one buys a legal copy of a CD/DVD or computer software they should have every right to make a backup copy for fair use. One big scratch and the media is rendered useless.

    This seems very facist even. Same problem in the US. The big corporate interests (MPAA, RIAA) own most of the politicians so the one who pays the piper names the tune!

    And it doesn’t help that most people are apathetic, misinformed, etc.