Technology & Science

Copyright wish lists

Artists, technology companies, educators and others have a range of opinions on what should be included in an updated copyright law, many of which they are sharing with the government during public consultations this summer.

Some want extra levies on iPods and other music players. Others want to make it legal to record TV shows to watch later, which is technically not permitted now.

Artists, technology companies, educators and others have a range of opinions on what should be included in an updated copyright law, many of which they are sharing with the federal government during public consultations that launched on July 20.

In announcing the consultations, the government said it wanted to strike a balance between the interests of copyright holders and those of users of copyrighted material. Most people agree, but they have differing opinions about what should be included.

Here's a roundup of some of their suggestions.

Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists

Canadian courts have ruled against extending copying levies to digital recorders and music players such as iPods. ((Associated Press))
They represent: Self-employed English-language artists working in feature films, TV, radio, digital media, corporate videos and commercials as dramatic actors, comedians, dancers, background performers, voice-over specialists, singers, puppeteers, stunt performers

Spokesperson: Stephen Waddell, national executive director

They say the new copyright law should:

1) Achieve compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties

These international treaties were signed by Canada in 1997. The federal government says Canada already complies with its international obligations.

2) Impose a levy on digital recorders and music players

Such copying levies already exist on old media such as blank tapes, and generate revenue that is supposed to compensate rights holders for legal copies of their work. However, Canadian courts have ruled against extending them to digital devices such as iPods and mp3 players. Waddell said given the purpose of the levy, it doesn't make sense that the levy is applied only to media that are "fast approaching obsolescence."

Canadian Association of Internet Providers

They represent: Internet service providers and other companies involved in providing internet services

Spokesperson: Tom Copeland, chair

They say the copyright law should:

Not require ISPs to take down content that allegedly infringes copyright

Nor do internet providers want to be required to cut off the internet service of alleged infringers. "I don't think Canadians want their ISPs to become agents of law enforcement," Copeland said. He added that traditionally, ISPs have passed on notices of copyright violation from the rights holder, but that is where their obligations ended.

Canadian Association of University Teachers

They represent: Professors, instructors, librarians, researchers and other academic professionals and staff.

Spokesperson: David Robinson, associate executive director

They say the new copyright law should:

1) Not include restrictive rules against breaking digital locks

Such rules would make it illegal, if not impossible, to make legitimate copies of material such as software, Robinson said. The previous Conservative copyright reform bill, Bill C-61, allowed exceptions for educational use, but even that is not ideal, as it is becoming hard to judge what constitutes educational use, he added. The association believes that lock-breaking is and should be permitted under allowances for fair dealing and fair use.

2) Make copyright licence conditions invalid if they conflict with Canadian copyright law

Users often must agree to the conditions of standard form contracts in order to use software or online services. "We believe that those things actually are more restrictive than what the current copyright legislation and the current legal framework in Canada would actually permit," Robinson said, adding that such contracts limit fair use and fair dealing. He wants the government to specify that in those kinds of cases, Canadian law takes precedence over the condition in the contract.

3) Maintain current copyright terms

Some rights holders want works to be protected by copyright longer than it is now — the life of the author plus 50 years, Robinson said. His group is opposed to that, as it would remove many works from the public domain and delay many others from becoming part of the public domain.

Canadian Library Association

They represent: Individuals and groups involved in library or information sciences

Spokesperson: Robert Tiessen, chair of the association's copyright working group

They say the copyright law should:

1) End Crown copyright

"It's just causing too much trouble for Canadians to try and get permission to use things when the government publishes them," Tiessen said. He added that U.S. government publications are in the public domain, and Australia licenses government publications under a Creative Commons licence that allows the user far more rights than conventional copyright.

2) Help Canadians with disabilities access more materials.

Under the current law, people who are blind or deaf can convert copyrighted materials to certain formats so they can use them. Tiessen said his group favours expanding that to include whatever format a person with a perceptual disability might need. The association also would like such alternate format materials to flow freely between Canada and the U.S. as they did before the U.S. banned export of such materials in 2004, but Tiessen is not sure how the copyright law could address that.

3) Clarify fair dealing

Right now, it's very hard to interpret what qualifies as fair dealing, Tiessen said. For example, until a 2004 court decision, it wasn't clear whether people doing research for profit qualified for fair dealing – in fact, they do. Tiessen suggests:

  • Basic guidelines should be included in the legislation based on court decisions.
  • Canada should specify, as the U.S. has, that people who make a mistake that infringes copyright when they believed they were legally using something under fair dealing shouldn't have to pay damages.

4) Not require internet providers to take down materials that allegedly infringe copyright.

Many non-profit groups such as libraries and universities serve as ISPs, Tiessen said, and are concerned that free speech will be stifled by false allegations of copyright infringement.

Entertainment Software Association of Canada

The Entertainment Software Association wants to make it illegal to break digital locks both on video game disks and consoles.
They represent: Video game publishers and distributors

Spokesperson: Danielle Parr, executive director

They say the new copyright law should:

1) Protect digital locks

Such locks are on both game disks and consoles, and used for features like anti-piracy copy protection, parental controls and time-limited trials that allow people to sample games for a short length of time. The group wants it to be illegal to:

  • Break digital locks on both game disks and consoles.
  • Sell lock-breaking goods or services such as chips that allow pirated games to play in game consoles.

Under the current law, those are both permitted. The group supports some exceptions, such as the freedom for people who are visually impaired to make copies of a book.

2) Make internet providers take down files that allegedly violate copyright

This would include pirated versions of games posted by an internet user on an internet service provider's network. Under the proposal, ISPs would have to remove the material after receiving a notice from the copyright holder, and the person who posted the material could later appeal.

Currently, an ISP does not have to respond to notices from a copyright holder, and a court injunction is required to get such material taken down. Under Bill C-61, ISPs had to pass the notice on to the customer, but did not have to take the material down.

Parr said pirated games are often posted even before a game launches, a phenomenon that is damaging to game retailers and creators, who sell most copies of the game within the first days or weeks of its release.

"With the nature of the internet and the nature of our business, timeliness is really important to us," she added.

Information Technology Association of Canada

They represent: Canada's technology industry, including telecommunications, internet services, hardware, microelectronics, software and electronic content.

Spokesperson: Bernard Courtois, president and CEO

They say the new copyright law should:

1) Let researchers break digital locks

Research and innovation in fields like cryptography and security involve breaking digital locks, and don't lend themselves well to requirements to seek consent from the copyright holder in advance, Courtois said. Such consent was required by Bill C-61. Courtois suggested that researchers could be asked to prove they were doing research after the fact.

2) Target penalties at people who profit by violating copyright

The law should make clear that taking copyrighted material without permission is stealing, and focus penalties on "people who are making a business of being crooks, not the innocent consumer who was doing things for personal use," Courtois said. That will protect the ability of creators to innovate, he added.

3) Let customers tinker with their purchases

Markets grow when consumers get value for their money, Courtois argued, and that means consumers should:

  • Be able to use a product on multiple devices or networks.
  • Be able to tinker with it to ensure compatibility with other software or even other networks, in the case of cellphones that have been locked to one provider.
  • Not require copyright levies for additional uses.

Courtois said Bill C-61 would have hamstrung innovations such as the digital video recorder by allowing it to record TV shows in a person's home, but not run remotely over a network. He argued that companies offering such remote services should not have to pay additional copyright fees and pass them on to consumers because the rights holder has already been paid.

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

The new law should enshrine the right to record TV shows with a personal video recorder and watch them at a more convenient time, says John Lawford of the Public Interest Advocacy Clinic. ((Jim Mone/Associated Press))
They represent: Consumers

Spokesperson: John Lawford, counsel

They say the copyright law should:

1) Give consumers flexible use of media they have purchased

The group wants to enshrine consumers' rights to make copies of media they have purchased in order to:

  • Time shift: Record a broadcast to watch or listen to at a more convenient time. Despite the popularity of VCRs and PVRs (personal video recorders), this is currently technically illegal, Lawford said.
  • Format shift: Change media such as music or video to other formats and media, such as scanning a book to make a digital copy. 
  • Space shift: Copy music or video files for use in a different place, such as burning songs from an LP onto a CD to listen in the car, or loading them as MP3s onto an iPod.

"That's what people do right now. It's perfectly reasonable," Lawford said, adding that people want to buy a given song or other piece of media "once and not 10 times." He added that the law regarding this is currently unenforceable and enforcing it would not be in the public interest, as it would impede new business models and ways that people have traditionally enjoyed media.

2) Make fair dealing more flexible

Fair dealing is a provision under Canadian law that allows the use of copyrighted material for five specific purposes. Lawford wants it to be more flexible to allow for things like parody, which is permitted under the U.S. concept of fair use. The new law could be made to include new uses, such as remixing, by including examples of legitimate uses instead of a specific list.

3) Allow digital locks to be broken for legal purposes.

Under WIPO, Canada must allow digital locks, Lawford said. However, it isn't required to ban the breaking of such locks. People might break a digital lock on copyrighted material for education, news reporting and other uses that are allowed under fair dealing and therefore do not violate copyright, he said. That type of lock breaking should be legal, Lawford said.

"I don't think you need to have protection of the protection."