Editorial: Bill C-61 not the solution

By Sarelle Azuelos

Everyone hates long transit rides. Fortunately, most transit riders can watch their favourite movies or listen to albums ripped off of DVDs and CDs on their MP3 players to help pass the time. But after another step taken in the long journey of pleasing corporate media giants, the ride just got longer.

Bill C-61 has been attracting negative attention from media and online communities alike over the past month. The bill, which is a list of amendments to Canada’s copyright law, is being called “The Canadian Digital Millennium Copyright Act” by opponents after the controversial American bill passed in 1998.

Changes to the act would have some benefits. Statutory damages would have a set limit of $500 and time and format shifting will be clearly legal. But even within these advancements, a basic thought process is lacking. The $500 per infringement gets bumped up to $20,000 if a digital lock is present on whatever material is being recorded or transferred. Acquiring a song illegally online is a $500 fine, but buying a CD and breaking the digital lock for the same song is $20,000. Format shifting is legal only if these locks don’t exist, and even then DVDs are exempt. Any Fair Use exemptions for educational purposes from previous laws will be void if locks are on the useful materials. Considering most digital media have some sort of digital lock, this law makes criminals of anyone who purchases a CD and then puts it on their iPod.

The proposal will make Canada meet the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization’s standards. Organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents major labels in the U.S., are supportive of the changes and WIPO’s policies. They will now have legal backing to go after students using portions of songs in an educational video.

How the government will enforce Bill C-61 hasn’t been addressed by Minister of Industry Jim Prentice. Prentice’s ability to dodge questions about the bill is gathering its own online following. Liberal MP and industry critic Scott Brison claimed the law was “U.S. made” and would push Canada further into a “police state.” He and other critics are frustrated with the lack of consultation on the bill. The issue affects almost every Canadian and Industry Canada did very little to find out what they wanted.

Online music stores have massive sales with iTunes topping five billion downloads recently. They are quickly becoming the top method of media distribution and the laws haven’t said much about them, not to mention albums released from artists online for free. If recording companies are worried about lost revenue due to illegal downloading and sharing, new laws preventing paid-for materials from being watched won’t solve the problem. If anything, it’s making more enemies of those already downloading.

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