Thursday, June 12, 2008

What Will New Canadian Copyright Laws Mean for Tech Industry?

The Government of Canada has proposed amendments to the Copyright Act that could potentially wreak havoc in the consumer electronics industry, where sharing content among devices and via the 'net is part of the appeal of many of today's products.

For example, the revisions make it legal to "copy" a TV program to a device like a PVR for watching later on. The same goes for a legally-acquired piece of music being copied onto a portable device, like an iPod or music phone. But this activity becomes illegal if the consumer has to get around some sort of "digital lock". Great: I can already see how content creators will be conjuring up ways to get around this loophole! If a person is caught in such an activity, he could face a $500 fine (up to $20,000 when we get into commercial activities).

Another amendment gives the rights holders of content, like music, video, or images, the right to determine how their content is posted and shared online. Previously, this right was only given to authors of the content, but it has now been extended to performers and producers. Does that mean that a Web surfer could be fined if he posted a video he took on his camera phone from a music concert? And in a case like that, what happens if the artist, the producer, and the and the songwriter all disagree? Additional amendments in this area include a "moral right" that would prevent distortions of one's content: I guess this means no more karaoke videos on YouTube? Some exceptions are made for the research and education markets.

In the online arena, Internet Service Providers (ISP) are being cleared of any responsibility when it comes to illegal downloaders or copyright infringers that use their services. However, they will be required to passs on copyright infringement allegations to the particular subscriber, and keep a record of their personal information for at least six months. In effect, the ISP will act as the liaison between the legal entity and the subscriber.

In terms of photographers, they will now become the owner of the copyright associated with images they've taken rather than the person that has commissioned the material (although the latter can still use said image(s) for personal purposes).

"It's a win-win approach because we're ensuring that Canadians can use digital technologies at home with their families, at work, or for educational and research purposes," explained the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Industry. "We are also providing new rights and protections for Canadians who create the content and who want to better secure their work online."

The entire idea of social networking on the Web will be hit pretty hard in wake of these new amendments. Personal blogs will likely no longer include photos acquired by a quick right-click, copy and paste action (luckily this blog doesn't engage in that activity!); while embedded videos might even be considered "illegal" if the content owner doesn't want the exposure (although I can't imagine why he wouldn't). Illegal music downloaders might also be a little less prone to engaging in their favourite past-time activity. In essence, all of these things are positive changes; but what's most worrisome is when it comes to some new products and technologies that facilitate the personal sharing of one's own content. If content creators start putting digital locks on everything they create, we'd run into some major issues. Hopefully these new amendments don't breathe new life into DRM-like restrictions that we've only just begun to show progress in eliminating.

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Tai Viinikka said...

The Government of Canada has made amendments to the Copyright Act...

Christine, do you mean, has proposed amendments?

This is not a done deal yet.

Marketnews - Christine Persaud said...

Hi Tai,

Thank you for pointing out the error. Yes, it should have said "proposed" and not "made". I have fixed this.

Thanks again.

Claude said...

Many of us have acquired the habit of walking into a massive warehouse (the 'net), browsing the shelves, walking out with loaded arms and paying nothing for the items we've taken. We don't do that at Zellers or Safeway. Why not? Because we fear swift and unpleasant consequences for doing the wrong thing. The illusory anonymity of the web has somehow made it seem acceptable for vast numbers of people to behave badly on-line. There isn't really any reasonable justification for it and the fallout has been massive retaliation by the RIAA.
I think our PM is puppet. I think Prentice and Flaherty are both droolers. I also think that people who toil to produce valuable commodities are entitled to be rewarded for that effort.
We do need a "Made in Canada" solution for all parties; not a package delivered by American lobbyists. These proposals look like they'll leave consumers with fewer fair use rights than we presently have. That's wrong and needs to be addressed.