A poll from Angus Reid shows Canadians are clearly divided over the government's proposed copyright reform legislation, with male, younger and more educated respondents particularly opposed to the bill.
About 45 per cent of respondents to the survey support the proposed bill C-61, which would open the door for lawsuits of $500 for downloading a copyrighted work and up to $20,000 for uploading such material or breaking digital locks put on content. The same number oppose the bill, while 10 per cent were undecided.
Demographically, respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 were far more opposed to the bill than their older counterparts, with 58 per cent saying they want their MP to vote against the bill after it receives its second reading in the House of Commons, likely this fall. About 37 per cent of adults between the ages of 35 and 54 planned to urge similar action, while only 27 per cent of older respondents said they want their MP to vote against the bill.
Canadians with a high-school diploma or less were more supportive of the legislation, with 55 per cent in favour of the changes. Respondents with college or technical school diplomas or university degrees were less likely to back it, with 60 per cent opposed.
About 49 per cent of men said they want their MPs to vote against C-61, compared to only 29 per cent of women.
Critics of the legislation said the numbers are not a good sign for the government, which is trying to sell the legislation as balanced in its protection of both consumer and copyright holder rights.
"If you are the Conservative party, which looks to younger males as a core constituency, this is not good news," wrote University of Ottawa internet law professor Michael Geist on his blog.
The survey, released Thursday, also found that a large majority of Canadians — 76 per cent — believe the bill has been drafted in response to lobbying by the North American music industry, despite the government's claims that the legislation is "Made in Canada." Two-thirds also felt the proposed changes would be unenforceable, with about the same number believing it would result in millions of lawsuits against Canadians.
Mario Canseco, director of global studies for Angus Reid, said the study was funded solely by the polling agency and not commissioned by anyone.
Online protests have exploded since Industry Minister Jim Prentice and Heritage Minister Josée Verner introduced the bill a week ago. More than 28,000 Facebook users have joined a protest group on the social-networking site since last Thursday, bringing its total to more than 69,000 members. Also, more than 8,000 letters have been sent to MPs through the Copyright For Canadians website.
Bill Rodgers, director of communications for Prentice, earlier this week reiterated the need for the copyright bill.
"The Copyright Act must provide clear, predictable and fair rules to allow Canadians to derive benefits from their creations," he wrote in an e-mail to CBCNews.ca. "As Minister Prentice said on Thursday, we believe we have found a Made-in-Canada balance for Canadian consumers who use digital technology, and for everyone who creates material that becomes digitally accessible."
The survey also found that half of Canadians polled believe that downloading music without paying for it is stealing, while 45 per cent disagreed. Women, older respondents and those with university educations were more prone to believe that doing so constitutes theft.