Canada’s Bill C-11 is now “The Copyright Modernization Act”

Yesterday, Bill C-11 received Royal Assent; it has passed into Canadian Law.

However, it will not take effect immediately.  The Government gets to decide when it goes into effect, and may first incorporate regulations before it does, which may not be for a matter of months.

In the normal course of things, that would likely be January 1st, 2013. But considering the intensity of lobbying by the American special interest groups, it could just as easily happen next Friday.

So, today, it is no longer “Bill C-11,” but the “Copyright Modernization Act”.

flawed process

The original attempt to foist a Canadian DMCA on Canada was made by the last Canadian Liberal Minority Government with Bill C-60. There was an unprecedented amount of public outcry against C-60, and the government fell before its passage.

Bill C-61 was the first Conservative Minority Government’s legislation drafted to do the same thing: satisfy American copyright reform pressure. This draft legislation also received incredibly strong public opposition, and the government fell before its passage.

The next Conservative Minority Government chose to conduct a public Copyright Consultation before reintroducing new copyright reform legislation. More than eight thousand Canadians responded to the call for public input. I doubt there has ever been that level of response to any such Government Public consultation, particularly on any subject as esoteric as copyright law.

The responses to this public consultation came from copyright collectives to individuals. Some advocated longer stronger copyright, others advocated less to none. Across the spectrum of responses, the vast majority of submissions agreed that making the circumvention of TPMs (Technological Protection Measures) illegal would be detrimental to Canada.

When the Conservative Minority Government introduced its new draft copyright legislation, Bill C-32, it actually did incorporate some of the reforms Canadians asked for in the Copyright Consultation. Unfortunately, C-32 also enshrined anti-circumvention provisions of Technical Protection Measures as the most powerful part of the legislation. Incredibly, circumvention of TPMs (more familiarly called DRM) would be illegal under Bill C-32 regardless of whether or not any copyright is infringed. If your DVD player refuses to play your home movies because it judges them copyright infringement, and you manage to circumvent this, under Bill C-32 this would make you a criminal.

Again, there was a great deal of opposition to Bill C-32, but it never made it to law, because the minority Conservative Government fell. In the ensuing Federal Election, one of the things the Conservatives pledged to do if they received a majority would be to pass their copyright reform law.

So it wasn’t terribly surprising that the Bill C-11 draft legislation was a true copy of Bill C-32. More disturbing, however, was that the government refused to hear arguments against C-11 that had been made against C-32. And worse, the process was fast tracked.

After speeding through the House of Commons, the day Bill C-11 was sent up to the Senate it appeared on the agenda. Subsequent Senate consideration fell well short of “sober second thought,” as it received Royal Assent within two weeks.

It is still early in the 41st Canadian Parliament, yet the Copyright Modernization Act, like other unpopular measures being pushed through by the current Conservative Majority Government, was pushed through very quickly, with minimal scrutiny and debate. There doesn’t seem to be any real reason for the government to have rushed this process, as the government majority made its passage pretty much a foregone conclusion.


Canadian DMCA logo

In some ways, the Copyright Modernization Act may appear beneficial, but all of the perceived benefits can be blocked by the anti-circumvention provisions.

Copyright is a legal monopoly created by the state.  Technological Protection Measures are more commonly known as DRM (variously “Digital Rights Management” or “Digital Restrictions Management“).    Of no little concern is that the TPMs that will now enjoy the full protection of the law will stifle innovation and independent Canadian cultural work.

A further very serious concern of mine is that most Canadians have absolutely no idea that the provisions of the Copyright Modernization Act will make them into criminals.


Copyright Update: C-11 and ACTA

Canadian DMCA logo

Fortunately Bill C-11 has not yet become law.


Unfortunately it is only a matter of time before our majority government passes this misguided “copyright modernization” legislation currently called Bill C-11.

[This is the exact same law that was called Bill C-32 by the previous Conservative Government. Earlier incarnations were known as Bill C-61: An Act to amend the Copyright Act (by the Conservatives), and Bill C-60: An Act to amend the Copyright Act (by the Liberals).]

Although Canadians have mounted waves of opposition against each succeeding incarnation of a “Canadian DMCA,” both Liberal and Conservative Canadian Governments have attempted to pass copyright legislation that’s clearly against Canadian interests.   Initially there was only supposition that the various drafts of a “Canadian DMCA” were produced in response to American pressure.  After all, the USTR has been spreading misinformation about supposed Canadian piracy for years, in spite of the fact that the American DMCA has not stopped American digital piracy levels from being far higher than ours.   Thanks to Wikileaks it is no longer an unsubstantiated guess: the Canadian government wants only to pass a Copyright Law that will make the American Government happy.

Four different Canadian Governments led by our two traditional ruling parties have tried to accomplish this, the previous efforts failed due to a combination of opposition and politics.

But this time it is different: our majority Conservative Government can pass anything it likes.

The only possible way to stop it is for public outcry.  The problem is that most Canadians still don’t know this is happening or why it is important or what it will do.  The mainstream media coverage has not helped raise awareness because their corporate masters have a vested interest; after all, the MPAA and RIAA (through its branch plant formerly known as CRIA) have a very long reach.

TPM, DRM, Digital Locks

DRM technologies attempt to give control to the seller of digital content or devices after it has been given to a consumer. For digital content this means preventing the consumer access, denying the user the ability to copy the content or converting it to other formats. For devices this means restricting the consumers on what hardware can be used with the device or what software can be run on it.

Wikipedia: Digital rights management

The single reason that Bill C-11 will be so devastating is that it sets TPM (Technical Protection Measures) as the most powerful element of Canadian copyright law.   TPMs (also known as copy protection) are the main weapon used in the DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) arsenal, and are commonly referred to as “Digital Locks” in Canada.

Whatever you call it, it will be terrible for Canadians.   It won’t matter if a person has legally purchased a copy of an eBook,  game, a movie or music, if Canadians need to circumvent TPMs in order to read, play watch or listen to our own legal copies, we will be breaking the law.  If I want to watch a movie DVD on my Linux computer, I won’t be able to.  Linux users will be forced to switch to Apple or Windows operating systems of they want to watch their DVDs.  If I want to format shift any digital media I’ve purchased so that it will play on the device of my choosing, I won’t be able to without breaking the law.

Does this mean it will be illegal to have my printer’s ink cartridges refilled with off brand ink? Probably. I was foolish enough to buy a printer that has computer chips in its printer cartridges. The chip tells the printer not to work because a certain amount of ink has been used or the printer cartridge is too old. Bypassing that programming may well be considered circumvention of the manufacturer’s technical protection measures. After all, to be protected under the new Bill C-11 Copyright Law, TPMs won’t have to be tied to any actual copyright infringement or criminal wrongdoing.

This is not a good thing for consumers.

Once this law is passed, I imagine that it will be only a matter of time before every digital device and most software destined for the Canadian market will be tightly locked in DRM.  Further, as a self publishing Canadian writer, my further concern is also that digital locks may well be used to limit distribution of my own work.

Why did Canada sign ACTA?

The speed with which digital innovation and the Internet have set the world on end is unprecedented; even Malcolm Gladwell, one of Canada’s brightest sons doesn’t get it. So I’m inclined to think that the largest problems is that most of our government doesn’t understand the issues.

It is unreasonable to expect elected officials to understand everything. They are only human, after all, and so they can’t. What they must do, is to find out about each issue as it arises, and the fastest way to do this is to consult with the experts. The problem that has arisen is that the experts governments the world over rely on when forging laws to govern this new technology are the mainstream media. And the mainstream media has a clear and present interest in both copyright and and controlling technological innovation.

It is very possible that C-11 is intended as a law to allow Canadian compliance with the dreadful ACTA Trade Agreement.

The world wears Mouse ears and reads ACTA attacks Internet is the La Quadrature Du Net ACTA Logo

ACTA is one more offensive against the sharing of culture on the Internet. ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is an agreement secretly negotiated by a small “club” of like-minded countries (39 countries, including the 27 of the European Union, the United States, Japan, etc). Negotiated instead of being democratically debated, ACTA bypasses parliaments and international organizations to dictate a repressive logic dictated by the entertainment industries.

ACTA, a blueprint for laws such as SOPA and PIPA, would impose new criminal sanctions forcing Internet actors to monitor and censor online communications. It is thus a major threat to freedom of expression online and creates legal uncertainty for Internet companies. In the name of trademarks and patents, it would also hamper access to generic medicines in poor countries.”

La Quadrature Du Net

Although Canadian negotiators were included in the secret ACTA treaty negotiations, sitting members of parliament and the public were deliberately kept in the dark as to what ACTA was about. Although ACTA is supposed to stand for “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agrement” the prime reason for its secrecy was the copyright law provisions.

Among those who are aware of ACTA, its agenda is believed to be that of the American movie and music industries. These Industries have been investing unprecedented amounts of time and money in attempts to coerce sovereign nations around the world to enact copyright laws beneficial to their special interests.

In spite of the fact that the final round of ACTA negotiations failed to achieve consensus in the secret negotiations, some time later Canada went ahead and signed the treaty anyway. The European Parliament signed ACTA a few days after the SOPA protest, but it must pass a plenary vote this summer before it will be official.

Oh! Canada: Memo to World: Stop ACTA Now!

Stop The Canadian DMCA

NO Canadian DMCACopyright law has always been concerned with Intellectual Property, but Bill C-11 strays into the realm of physical property. A law that prevents citizens from making personal use of our own legally purchased media on the digital devices of our choices strays beyond the realm of intellectual into the realm of physical property. Making all circumvention illegal is equivalent to putting citizens in jail for breaking into our own home of we’ve inadvertently locked ourselves out.

Bill C-11 is *not* in the Canadian interest.

More information can be found in my Oh! Canada article
“Bill C-11 Backgrounder: A Brief History of the Canadian DMCA” and What to do about Bill C-11 ?

Technical Aspects: check Russell McOrmond’s Conservative Copyright Bill C-11

Legal Aspects: Michael Geist – latest post includes the video short Strombo’s Soapbox: My Take on Bill C-11

Bill C-11 Status

Keep up with the status of this problematic draft legislation by checking LEGISinfo.


Star made of modelling clay, coloured with crayonI’ve been having a terrible time getting my debut novel to market.  I’m way behind the schedule I set for myself.  It’s a good book, and I’m very proud of it.   So what’s the problem?

Well, there is a lot to self publishing.  Just learning the technical stuff – crafting an ebook format that makes me happy is a bit more difficult than I expected.   Especially when there are other calls on my attention.  I think that I blogged more in November (NaNoWriMo) than any other time during the year because so many important political issues are coming to a head right now.

Then there are real life issues… like getting prepared for the festive season that is almost upon us.  I haven’t even got my annual Christmas card ready, which results in a twinge every time I open a card I’ve received.   I’m a dinosaur, I like mailing cards.  It’s a nice way to stay in touch with family.   The worst of it has been the politics.  I’m not a politician, I’m a writer.  A fiction writer.  But a lot of stuff is happening that I just have to blog about.   In the past, the world of politics has traditionally slowed down in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

But the reverse seems true this year.

American Flag

In the US: SOPA/PIPA threaten the Internet in Canada and around the world while the American Bill of Rights is taking an even greater hit with the passage of the NDAA yesterday.

canadian flag

In Canada: Our government seems in a rush to follow the American footsteps in becoming a police state with the prosecution of Byron Sonne and Julian Ichim

Canada is also fast tracking legislation that will assault Canadian civil rights with the Omnibus Crime Bill

A surge of public opinion regarding incursions against the Canadian right to privacy resulted in the removal of Lawful Access portion of Bill C-10, the Omnibus Crime Bill. However, the government is forging ahead and plans to push the pared down Omnibus Crime Bill through in spite of very real concerns raised on a variety of fronts. Serious issues raised by all stakeholders (the only exception being the corporate special interest group behind the draft legislation) have been similarly dismissed by the Government in respect of Bill C-11 “The Copyright Modernization Act”

Yet the Canadian Government has stated its firm intention to pass both of these highly controversial and unpopular laws by Christmas.

Are they doing this because they hope those of us who believe passage of these laws will be a tragedy for Canada will stop being concerned because we will be too caught up with our Christmas preparations, you know, peace on earth and goodwill toward men?

My child will be coming home from university this Christmas, so I want it to be special. That’s important.

But what is even more important is that the world he inherits should be at least as free and respectful of his Charter rights as it was when he was born.

Peace on earth is a good goal – maybe it’s time to bring our soldiers home from an unjust foreign war.

Good will toward men is another.   I raised my child to be a good citizen, to live with honour, to think for himself, to share what he has with friends, to help those less fortunate than himself, to safeguard the environment, and to respect the law.  When he was small, our family mantra was “people are not for hurting.”  Now that he is an adult, it still is.

So.  For 2009, my house will be messier than usual, my cards will be late, and my book delayed, all because I don’t want to see our government legislate away our privacy, our ability to share our culture freely if we choose, or our liberty without very good reason.   My grandparents escaped from Soviet Russia so they wouldn’t have to raise their family in the shadow of the Gulag.  I don’t want to see my child, or any other Canadians, deprived of liberty by incarceration except as a last resort.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and it’s a lot cheaper, too.

My Christmas wish for Canada is to see some real “Good will toward men” … and women … and children.

these lights stretch to the Clock Tower, photographed at Victoria Park, kitchenerFurther reading should include Stephen Bradley Scott’s important three part Lawful Access series. Although removed from the Omnibus Bill, our Government remains committed to this legislation.