Government ready to drop copyright bomb
The government is ready to introduce controversial new copyright legislation that experts believe will introduce harsh new restrictions on downloading, copying songs to CDs and music players, unlocking cellphones and time-shifting of television shows.
Minister of Industry Jim Prentice and the Minister of Canadian Heritage Josée Verner will unveil the bill to amend the Copyright Act on Thursday at 10:45 a.m. ET with brief statements, followed by a question-and-answer session with the media.
Critics fear the bill will mirror the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which similarly brought in restrictive measures and opened the door for copyright owners to enact huge lawsuits against violators.
Prentice has said on several occasions that Canada's Copyright Act must be amended in order to bring the country into compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty it signed in 1996.
The minister was forced to retreat on introducing the bill in December after being hit with major public opposition. More than 20,000 people joined a protest group started on social networking site Facebook by University of Ottawa internet and e-commerce professor Michael Geist, an outspoken critic of the bill.
The opposition to the legislation has only grown since then, with the Facebook group counting more than 40,000 members now.
'What deterrent effect will this law have on anyone buying a CD, or renting a DVD, bringing it round to several friends houses and letting them rip it before returning it?'
Canadian artists, librarians and students, as well as a business coalition made up of some of Canada's biggest companies — including Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp., as well as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. — have expressed their opposition to any legislation that imposes harsh copyright restrictions.
The chorus of opposition was joined last week by a coalition of consumers groups — including Option consommateurs, Consumers Council of Canada, Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) and Online Rights Canada (OnlineRights.ca) — who wrote a letter to the two ministers. The consumer groups expressed dismay that they had not been consulted on the pending legislation.
Prentice responded to questioning in the House of Commons last week by saying he would not introduce the bill until he and Verner were satisfied that it struck the right balance between consumers and copyright holders.
Geist has repeatedly attacked the government on his blog for its lack of consultation with the Canadian public on the issue. However, Prentice has met with U.S. trade representatives and entertainment industry lobbyists to discuss the legislation.
"Prentice should be honest about the core anti-circumvention rules that are likely to mirror the DMCA and run counter to the concerns of business, education and consumer groups," Geist wrote on his blog. "Those rules are quite clearly 'Born in the USA.'"