The Copyright Modernization Act: friend or foe?

Yesterday in Ottawa, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages James Moore and Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture) Christian Paradis spoke to the media about their plan to fast-track Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, and have it passed by the end of the year. The act is, according to many, a long overdue update to Canada’s existing copyright laws, which reflect a time before iPods, smartphones, and tablets became part of Canadians’ daily lives.

This is the fourth attempt to amend the Copyright Act in the past six years. The Liberals tried to do so in 2005, and the Conservatives in 2008, 2010, and now 2011. The Conservatives say the bill in its current state is identical to the one they tabled in June 2010, Bill C-32, which died when this May’s federal election was called. The legislation was changed following public consultations in 2009, when a parliamentary committee reviewing the bill talked to content creators and distributors across the country.

The act’s supporters say it protects the interests of content creators by helping them control the distribution of their work and, when their copyright is violated, giving them legal options to pursue compensation. The act also allows for the use of “digital locks,” pieces of software that prevent sharing and transferring of digital copies between devices, so only the person who purchased the work can access it. These digital locks may benefit writers and publishers but some are speaking out against them, as the act’s fair dealing provisions don’t allow libraries or educators to bypass them. The Canadian Library Association issued a statement yesterday asking for changes to this part of the act.

While the Copyright Modernization Act’s fair dealing provisions aim to balance consumers’ interests with those of the people who create and distribute copyrighted content—allowing for the use of copyrighted works for educational purposes, for example—the impact on Canadian writers and publishers could be significant, says Access Copyright, a non-profit organization that works to ensure content creators are paid for their work. A news release the organization issued yesterday reads:

Access Copyright is concerned that as currently drafted some of the new exceptions in the bill, including the expansion of fair dealing to cover education, would have serious implications for Canada’s publishing industry and drastically reduce revenues on which creators and publishers depend for their income and continued investments.

Maureen Cavan, Access Copyright’s executive director, said: “We look forward to working with Minister Moore, Industry Minister Christian Paradis, and the legislative committee to support amendments to the bill’s fair dealing language […] Clear language will create a balanced solution that will benefit the needs of both consumers and content creators.”

It is still possible to amend the bill, but according to this story, “most expect it will not be substantially altered between now and its passing.”

For more background and analysis on the Copyright Modernization Act, please consult the following links:

Balanced Copyright – The Copyright Modernization Act (Government of Canada official website)

Copyright Modernization Act – Backgrounder (GoC)

Private Broadcasters Support Government’s Copyright Modernization Act (news release on behalf of Canada’s Private Broadcasters)

CBC News: “Copyright changes: how they’ll affect users of digital content” (provides a full list of the act’s most important provisions)

Globe and Mail: “Law cracks down on digital piracy in Canada

Michael Geist: “The Canadian Copyright Bill: Flawed But Fixable

Posted on September 30, 2011 at 10:25 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , , ,

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