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”.
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.
TPMs = DRM
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.