Guess which of these activities will be illegal if a monstrously stupid bill passes in Ottawa: downloading music from a copy-protected CD; buying a DVD and ripping it to a video iPod; recording and storing shows on a PVR; or posting movie clips on YouTube.
If you guessed all of them, you win the grand prize of Bill C-61. Criminalizing standard Web practices is one of the ugliest ideas to come out of Parliament this summer.
The Conservative government’s plans to reform the aged copyright protection laws mock the very foundations of consumer rights. The prohibitions are stricter and the fines are steep; if you want to upload a copy-protected song to YouTube, it will cost you $20,000.
Welcome to the Bush-whipped world of Industry Minister Jim Prentice.
The legislation has only been introduced and may not make it past the feds’ summer break. But know that Bill C-61 represents, most creepily, the idea of tailoring our copyright laws to the hysteria rampant south of the border.
The U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act has seen 17-year-old Simple Plan fans arrested along with senior citizens reliving their youth with Rolling Stones downloads. You get songs from the Web, you’re guilty – that’s the U.S. of Pay. Prentice and his cohorts, too, want nothing more than to pander to the entertainment industry and its complaint of weak Canadian copyright laws.
Let’s get one thing straight: artists are entitled to their intellectual property. It’s chaos right now on the Web. File-sharing has run amok. Uploading videos backgrounded by famous songs is routine, and the hardcore among us buy DVDs to watch on the road on video iPods.
We get rights to content, but the artists get screwed. Some artists hate it, while others love the exposure.
Canada’s laws needed an overhaul, but this is no way to do it. Prentice rushed Bill C-61 through without consulting consumer groups or businesses. He discussed the bill with the U.S. ambassador and entertainment industry lobbyists – no surprise there. He didn’t even approach Rogers or Telus or Google. Those companies, collectively aghast at its harsh copyright restrictions, are opposing Bill C-61.
Digital locks on our favourite media don’t win points with fans or artists. Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning put it clearly in a news release: “The question is, who gains from this bill? It’s not musicians. Musicians don’t need lawsuits. These aren’t the things that help us or our careers.”
Bingo. Bands want to be friends with their fans, not enemies. (Remember the hate-on for Metallica back in Napster days?) Locks and lawsuits can only further bruise the music industry.
The U.S. is known for promoting digital rights management (DRM), which seals a DVD or CD, preventing it from being copied. Smart move? Not so much. The restrictions are make for horrible customer service, because all flexibility has been crushed: use a CD for just its one purpose – listen to it on your player, and don’t you dare think about downloading tracks to your iPod!
Liberal industry critic Scott Brison has called this dystopic future a police state and publicly denounced the bill’s core. He’s slammed the government for not thinking about how it will enforce these provisions. Good point. The Harper government has been quick to react to every twitch from the elephant to the south instead of considering how Canada will start arresting citizens who burn CDs.
We don’t have to sit on our hands and cross our fingers for the bill’s quick dismissal. Canadians are protesting Bill C-61 as vocally as Net nerds can – through Facebook groups (thank you, Michael Geist), BoingBoing.net (Cory Doctorow grows bitter whenever he mentions Prentice) and angry letters to newspaper editors.
It might sound like whistling in the wind, but MPs should be listening. Bill C-61 is more dangerous than some people realize, because it’s cloaked in legal-speak only download junkies can decipher. But it has the potential to take away all the digital freedoms we currently take for granted.
Who’s saying what about Bill C-61
“It basically criminalizes much of the population who enjoy music in their homes. It’s a non-starter in music distribution, but here is a government trying to use it to police fans of music.”
Larry LeBlanc, publisher, The LeBlanc Report
“It’s big industry leaning on the government. They’re not acting in my interest. I don’t want to punish people who are interested in finding out about what I do.”
Justin Rutledge, singer/songwriter
“While Jim Prentice has given a handful of new rights to Canadian consumers, each is subject to many limitations and undermined by digital locks provisions that may effectively render the new rights meaningless.”
Michael Geist, professor and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, University of Ottawa
“I don’t know why they’re making a big deal. No one is making money from [remixes]. There’s alway s a way around it – new software, etc. They can make an example out of me, but the chances of catching me are pretty slim. If someone wanted to take me to court, I know a good lawyer.”
“We are currently reviewing the bill. We don’t have a position on it at the moment.”
Angela Vink, SOCAN
“It’s great that the government is finally taking copyright seriously. However, we aren’t overly excited about the fact that it puts the blame squarely on the consumer. You can’t slap people on the wrist without educating them as to why they need to respect copyright.”
Brian Hetherman, Curve Music/Cerberus Artist Management
Compiled by JASON KELLER