What the Canadian DMCA means in practical terms

Given the tabing of Bill C-61 this week (aka “the Canadian DMCA”), I’ve decided to put the coverage in context with some practical examples and questions.

Under the new legislation:

  • It will be illegal for anyone in my house to watch a DVD on a computer, since we run GNU/Linux (courtesy of the digital lock provision which outlaws “unauthorized” DVD decoders)
  • I would be liable for $500 in damages ($6000 if it’s per song, which isn’t clear) for loading A Perfect Circle’s Thirteenth Step — which I own — onto my computer, an album that problem sells for $9.99 on iTunes (courtesy of the digital lock provision and limitations to statutory damages). If I share that album with my younger brother, I may be liable for up to $20,000 in damages (again, assuming it’s not per song) because it ceases to be for private use.
  • It will be explicitly illegal for my parents to share their digital music collection with each other, even though they share their physical music collection (courtesy of the limitations of the private copying of music provision)
  • Canadians are finally explicitly allowed to time shift broadcasts. Except, if someone tells us that we’re not allowed to time shift broadcasts. The time shifting provision is completely undermined by the digital lock provision
  • The time shifting provision has the following limitation: “29.23 (d) the individual keeps the recording no longer than necessary in order to listen to or watch the program at a more convenient time;” I guess my family may have to destroy the old VHS recordings we have of Christmas specials from when we were kids or television shows my mom has appeared on in the past, less we be hit with $500 a piece damages for keeping these recordings “longer than necessary.” Nevermind the episode of Canadian Idol from last week, that (*gasp*) may still be sitting on your DVR
  • What exactly qualifies as making available? (See New Rights and Protections for Copyright Owners) If I have music in a shared folder on my local network, but my WiFi is unencrypted, am I making it available? The $20,000 upper limit for damages applies to making available.
  • Posting a copyrighted photo on the Internet? Up to $20,000 in damages, thanks to the limitations of the limitations on statutory damages.
  • Posting a copyrighted video on the YouTube? Up to $20,000 in damages, thanks to the limitations of the limitations on statutory damages
  • Educational institutions can now make use of content on the Internet, unless someone says they can’t make use of content on the Internet (courtesy of the digital lock provision).

There is some good news, but it’s largely made irrelevant by the bad. For example, things like time shifting or format shifting are, at best, in a legal gray area at present. Bill C-61 would permit these actions explicitly… unless someone says they aren’t permitted. Without the digital lock provisions, this might actually be a step forward. Too bad those anti-circumvention measures are central to the bill.

Michael Geist feels betrayed. Darryl Moore examines some of the negative effects on everyday activities. The Canadian Music Creators Coalition says the bill doesn’t help Canadian artists. 10,000 more Canadians have joined the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group. I’m flat out angry.

At least the CRIA is happy. This would give it the ability to sue music fans.

Join the protest.

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