Thursday, June 12, 2008


So the government introducted new copyright legislation today. If you are in the dark about the changes to Canadian copyright law here is a brief outline.

The Canadian government loves taxes. Always has. Quite some time ago they introducted a tax on all blank media. It used to be blank VHS and cassette tapes, then blank CD and DVD's, and eventually they extended it to include blank hard-drives and MP3 players.

This little tax on blank media had an unintended side-effect. Courts in Canada went and ruled that because consumers have paid this tax they possessed the right to copy any recording from the original copy even those they do not personally own. This right was extended to include P2P downloads, effectively making the downloading of pirated music legal in Canada. Uploading technically remained illegal but has not really been inforced.

The money raised by this tax was distributed to music publishers via some complicated formula that had nothing to do with the popularity of an artist and mostly to do with the whim of some idiot bureaucrat and the lobbying powers of various record labels or industry insiders.

Today the Conservative (business friendly and in love with all things American) government introduced new copyright legislation in Canada. I'm not going to get into the details around rights for educational uses, libraries, etc. because frankly they seem pretty well thought out and fair. (The publishing industry hates them so you know they are probably balanced)

The scary part of the law involves new technologies. The internet, personal digital music players, etc. The law contains provisions regarding breaking digital "locks" and fines for downloading pirated music or movies for personal use.

If music or movies you legally purchased contain no locks you are legally allowed to copy/transfer the content to any device you own. So you can buy a CD and copy it to your iPod (something technically illegal in many jurisdictions including the USA) without worry. You can purchase a movie and copy it to your computer or purchase a movie online and create a copy to watch on your DVD player. You can copy your old vinyl album to mp3 or to CD if you want.

What you can't do is copy the CD or movie to another device if it contains a digital lock. "Breaking" or circumventing this digital protection is a serious offence, and can carry huge fines, even if you are only doing it only for personal use. The creation or use of software that can be used to break these digital locks would be illegal.

So technically I could legally purchase a music CD at Wal-Mart, and if it is digitally locked, I am not allowed to put a copy of that music on my iPod, forcing me to carry around a bulky and very unsexy portable CD player circa 1995 if I want to enjoy my tunage. I have to buy the "digital" version as well. I have to pay twice for the same music.

This is the same as me purchasing a t-shirt and the designer of the shirt and government telling me I can only wear it on Saturdays. If I wear the shirt any other day of the week I can go to jail. Sounds stupid doesn't it? That is because it is.

I'm not an advocate of software or music or movie piracy (at least not on this blog and publicly), but if I legally purchase something I should be allowed to do whatever the hell I want with it. This includes copying it to my iPod, making a backup copy in case the original is damaged, loaning it to my friend, selling it on eBay, etc.

More information is available from the following sources:

Canadian Copyright Law from Wikipedia. Covers the basics, an introduction to the law.

Fair Copyright for Canada - Lobby group started by copyright lawyer and University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist. Start here if you want to fight the government and industry attempt to limit consumer rights and personal choice.

Canadian Music Creators Coalition - Industry group that opposes DMCA "locks and lawsuits" style copyright legislation. Members include Canadian artists such as Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlin, Broken Social Scene, Avril Lavigne, David Bidini (Rheostatics), Matthew Good, Metric, Raine Maida, Randy Bachman, Richie Hawtin (Plastikman), Sum41, etc. Basically anybody who actually creates and sells great Canadian music. Does not include the shite artists that are created by stupid television shows like Canadian Idol.


xoggoth said...

Sounds nuts but as you imply how would anyone know you had copied your CD music to your Ipod and would they be seriously interested if you did? One assumes it is aimed at more serious copyright theft.

Being an old fart I have not caught up with Ipods yet. Must get round to it.

Ca1v1n said...

Scary thing is yes, they would. Canadian border officials have hinted they would start looking at iPod and laptops crossing the boarder for evidence of file sharing. Of course their excuse is looking for kiddie porn but if they find pirated music you would be charged and your property confiscated. The question is how do they prove it, like I am going to keep receipts proving I purchased the music on my iPod with me at all times.