C-11 ~ What *are* TPMs anyway?

pie chart 61.9% voted "Yes" 28,57% "No", the rest don't know.

The majority of those Canadians who took my unscientific poll  understand (or think they understand) what DRM is.

Yet very few taking my poll had any idea what TPMs are.

Friday May 4th was the International Day Against DRM. Although Canada has been talking about changing copyright law for well over a decade, DRM (Digital Rights Management, or Digital Restrictions Management) isn’t even mentioned in Bill C-11, the draft legislation currently before parliament.

pie chart: 77.27% said NO 9.9 13.64% were NOT SURE and 9.09% said YES

Interestingly enough, many Americans are just as confused by the acronym TPMs as Canadians are, because, especially in the tech sector, TPM is more often an acronym for Trusted Platform Module.

If you search for “Technical Protections Measures” on Wikipedia, you will be redirected to the “Copy Protection” page.    And oddly, although people talk about “Technical Protection Measures” the language in Bill C-11 is actually “Technological protection measures.”

Wikipedia will tell you that there is no “Technological Protection Measures” page, but provides a list of search results. Unsurprisingly, the first on the list is the Digital Rights Management page, which is appropriate since “Technical Protections Measures” or TPMs are pretty interchangeable with DRM.

Curiously, DRM is not mentioned in the American Digital Millenium Copyright Act either. The phrase “technological measures” is used to describe DRM in that bit of legislation.

`Sec. 1201. Circumvention of copyright protection systems …
(3) As used in this subsection–

`(A) to `circumvent a technological measure’ means to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner; and

`(B) a technological measure `effectively controls access to a work’ if the measure, in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work.

Digital Millenium Copyright Act

Bill C-11 defines TPMs thus:

“technological protection measure” means any effective technology, device or component that, in the ordinary course of its operation,

(a) controls access to a work, to a perform- er’s performance fixed in a sound recording or to a sound recording and whose use is authorized by the copyright owner; or

(b) restricts the doing — with respect to a work, to a performer’s performance fixed in a sound recording or to a sound recording — of any act referred to in section 3, 15 or 18 and any act for which remuneration is payable under section 19.

Bill C-11

Short answer: TPM is Bill C-11 legal language for DRM.

If Bill C-11 becomes law as written, it will become illegal to circumvent DRM, even if the DRM is “protecting” work that does not infringe copyright.   Work that is in the public domain. Work that qualifies as fair dealing. Work that is licensed to share. Work that doesn’t infringe copyright.

Bill C-11 will give DRM super powers in Canada.

If Bill C-11 becomes law, I expect DRM will appear on everything destined for the Canadian market.

WSIC (Waterloo Students for the Information Commons) has set up a DRM/TPM wiki


6 thoughts on “C-11 ~ What *are* TPMs anyway?

    • Primarily because the confusion isn’t the fault of Wikipedia, whose editors have done a remarkable job on this confusing issue. The problem stems from the fact the Canadian Government set out to copy American copyright law, and so adopted the DMCA’s language, even though it employs terminology not in common usage in the United States or Canada.

      Why would any government use language that its citzens don’t understand?

  1. James Moore, the culture minister, doesn’t technology. When you have someone who doesn’t understand something trying to write legislation, you’re going to end up with problems.


  2. I am of the opinion that the DRM and TPM terms are *not* interchangeable.

    I set my website link to my own “What are TPMs?” page. One particularly important point is that The TPM term is technologically neutral: the DRM term implies it only applies to “Digital” formats.

    Incidentally, there was an error in my interpretation of the 1996 WIPO treaties for my 2009 copyright consultation submission. It one word is replaced, it becomes much more clear that “Terms of Use” aren’t completely rewrite copyright law. I have yet to update that page to reflect that new interpretation.

    • Yes, you’re correct, which is why I first qualified it with “pretty interchangeable.” I am aware that TPMs are even worse than DRM because it is not confined to digital. I know, for instance, that the the proprietary screw-drivers necessary to open some equipment are technological protection measures. Which means that all manner of equipment is going to have to be thrown out because it will now be illegal to repair and refurbish such things.

      Still, I don’t think that is the intent of Bill C-32, rather it is an unintended consequence. For the most part, it is the digital realm that C-32 is intended to control, to force people to have to buy more and more often.

      The thing to remember here is that these are not only complex ideas, they are new ideas. Having a variety of labels for the same or similar things just confuses the public. A surprising number of people are aware of what’s wrong with DRM, yet they don’t understand that C-11 will make bypassing it illegal. That’s one reason these laws get passed, people – including the politicians in our legislature – don’t understand them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s