Canada’s Revised Copyright Regime: Bill C-32 Detailed

The Canadian government today announced the details of what will become Bill C-32: the Copyright Modernization Act (the text of the Bill is not yet available online) – the opening act of what is certain to be a contentious debate which will unfurl over the next few months.  Jason Magder provides coverage (“New copyright bill introduced”) as does Steven Chase (“Tories unveil tougher copyright bill”).  Some highlights from Magder’s coverage in the Montreal Gazette:

It will be easier for recording companies and film studios to go after those who share files illegally, if a new copyright law introduced in the House of Commons Wednesday is passed.

The new law would require Internet service providers to notify their users if they receive a notice that a copyright has been infringed upon. The ISPs would then be required to hold on to the personal information of the infringing member, to turn it over if a court orders them to do so. Under the current law, ISPs only notify copyright infringers on a voluntary basis.

… Among other changes, the law legitimizes activities that most Canadians already do, such as transferring music from a legally purchased CD to an MP3 player, or recording a television show, which goes against current copyright rules, universally seen as outdated and last updated in 1997.

The legislation, however, makes it illegal to circumvent digital locks, even for personal or educational purposes.

And from Chase’s coverage in the Globe and Mail:

The new bill aims to soften the blows of changes for consumers by legitimizing a lot of commonplace but grey-area activities such as home taping of TV or copying CDs to other devices or for backup purposes. It would legalize personal recording of TV, radio and Internet programs for later viewing or listening – as long as this is not done to create a permanent library of duplicated work. It would also okay the practice of copying already-purchased music, film or other electronic works to other playback devices such as MP3 players – or for backup purposes.

In what might be called the YouTube exemption: Canadians will be also free to create video “mashups” that borrow from commercial works for posting online.

Preliminary reaction from around the internet includes Michael Geist’s impressively detailed consideration (“The Canadian Copyright Bill: Flawed But Fixable”), which ends with this:

…the initial reaction depends on whether you are a glass half full or glass half empty person.  For the glass half-full, the compromise positions on fair dealing, the new exceptions, and statutory damages are not bad – not perfect – but better than C-61.  For the glass half-empty, the digital lock provisions are almost identical to C-61 and stand as among the most anti-consumer copyright provisions in Canadian history.

Personally, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy (at least when it comes to copyright reform) and, without having seen the text of the bill, would strike a position even more positive than Geist’s: most legislation, and particularly copyright legislation, ends up being an ungainly compromise among the interests of various stakeholders, so a bill which attempts to address a broad range of concerns and take account of a broad range of interests is inevitably going to contain elements that are problematic for whoever is assessing it.  It seems that there are many positive elements to this bill, and it will be interesting to see what survives and changes through the committee process in Parliament.

Here at the Signal we’re going to do our best over the next few months to keep tabs on developments and commentary, from a variety of perspectives, surrounding Bill C-32, so we invite readers to check back often (clicking the “Bill C-32” tag below will bring you to an index of all posts on the Signal about the topic).

UPDATE: The CBC has a piece with reactions from a variety of stakeholders (“Copyright bill would outlaw breaking digital locks”).

UPDATE: The Entertainment Software Association of Canada “welcomes strong action on copyright”.

UPDATE: ACTRA describes the bill as “a real blow to artists”.

UPDATE: Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) and Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) “thank the government for taking this step to protect the right of artists and other rights holders to earn a living from their work”.

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Bob Tarantino

About Bob Tarantino

Bob Tarantino is Counsel at Dentons Canada LLP and focuses his practice on the interface between the entertainment industries and intellectual property law, with an emphasis on film and television production, financing, licensing, distribution, and IP acquisition and protection. His clients range from artists and independent producers to Canadian distributors and foreign studios and financiers at every stage of the creative process, from development to delivery and exploitation.

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