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.


C-11 ~ Copyright Fallacy #3

Copyright "c" with Maple Leaf

“The damage that piracy does is very deep. If left unchecked, it will really have an impact on the number and quality of movies and television shows produced.”

— Ben Sheffner, MPAA Content Protection Counsel, Reason TV: “Too Much Copyright”

That sounds serious.

But is it true?

Well, no.

The reality is that the number and quality of movies and television shows produced by Hollywood has actually plummeted all the while American copyright terms have been “strengthened” and extended.

Over and over again.


In the 1950’s a television season ran as many as 39 episodes, but a series today is lucky to manage two dozen.

Hundreds of television channels may be available but how much of what’s there is of value? Programming created by the big television networks is often pretty awful.

It’s no longer possible to access analogue television broadcasts over the air in Canada, and I’ve happily not subscribed to cable tv for years now. “Reality TV” signalled the beginning of the end. I still watch “television”, but it comes on dvds, and I only need bother with the good stuff.


Fewer Hollywood movies are made every year, so there is far less to choose from on the big screen as well.

Consumers have a finite amount of disposable income, and competition lowers profits, so greater profits can be realized from fewer movies.

Hollywood is primarily interested in sequels and remakes because they are the safest way to make profit. Safety rarely produces good art, which is why the most interesting cinema fare seems to be produced by the independents who assume the risks, and then, if successful, find a Hollywood distribution deal.

Ironically, I haven’t seen a movie in a cinema in years. Again, there is little selection to choose from in Canada, where we’re down to a single first run theatre chain. Without competition, what’s on offer is the same everywhere.

Better (and cheaper) selection can be found in the dvd remainder bins at my local super market or video store.

what copyright does

Copyright law allows Hollywood to realize the most profit out of the least amount of product. It is, in fact, the unchecked expansion of copyright law that has proven to have the most detrimental impact on the number and quality of movies and television shows produced.

what Canada’s Bill C-11 will do

Canada’s Bill C-11 “The Copyright Modernization Act,” makes it illegal for Canadians to bypass “Technological Protection Measures” or TPMs (what the rest of the world calls “DRM”)  for any reason.

If a TPM prevents you from playing the digital copy of a movie you’ve purchased on the device of your choice, and you bypass this “digital lock”, you will be breaking the law.  The only way you will be able to legally view the movie on the device of your choice, would be to buy a new copy.  And of course, if the device of your choice is a GNU/Linux computer, you won’t be able to play any commercial movies at all.

Bill C-11 is a real plum for the Copyright Lobby, but still, it won’t be enough to satisfy  Hollywood.   They want longer and stronger copyright law to reduce the depth of the cultural playing field even more, to eliminating competition and eroding the public domain through perpetual copyright.

Which is, of course, the real goal.

Canada’s majority government today passed Bill C-11, the co-called “Copyright Modernization Act” in spite of unprecedented Canadian opposition. The tragedy is most Canadians are unaware of copyright issues and don’t yet realize the growing impact it exerts over our daily lives.
This is the third in my C-11 Copyright Series:

C-11 ~ Copyright: Fallacy #2

“Wasn’t the whole purpose of copyright to allow artists, musicians, and authors to make a living?”


Well…. No.

Although the privilege of copyright was granted to writers (and later extended to other creators), they had a very limited ability to make copies.  A writer could copy the manuscript by hand and sell copies to anyone they met.  The printers had the expertise and the control of the expensive equipment, so right from the start the creators were disadvantaged, writers had no choice but to assign this “right” to the distributors.

Although the supposed justification for copyright is to allow creators to make a living, in practice the monopoly allowed the Stationers (or Booksellers, Printers, Publishers &tc.) to generate revenue and control publishing.  Copyright succeeded so well for so long by giving the appearance of existing to benefit the creators.   Creator support ensures that the market – the audience – honours copyright.

As time went on, creators wound up with ever decreasing power over this supposed privilege, while the distributors — now called publishers — accrued more and greater power, which they used to dictate terms to creators.  The problem was that printing was only part of it; the distribution network was the other side of the equation.

More and more of our cultural pursuits have come under the “protection” of copyright.   The music recording industry is the worst for creators, as many (most?) musicians were forced to give up their copyright in order to secure a recording contract.  For all but the biggest stars, the effect is to  thrust most recording artists into indentured servitude.   Because of this, more and more musicians choose the independence now possible with affordable recordings and Internet distribution.  Before the Internet, CRIA controlled the recording industry in Canada; but 30% of the Canadian Industry was independent by 2010. It isn’t piracy that threatens the legacy distributors, it’s competition.

In today’s Canada we also have a proliferation of copyright collectives which have devolved onto yet another “middleman” with a hand in the copyright till.

The only way for creators to access the funds owing them as a result of the copyright monopoly is by way of copyright collectives, which is why copyright collectives lobby for stronger, longer copyright.

Perhaps initially these collectives actually represented the interests of creators, but judging from the lobbying they engage in today, it seems pretty clear these collectives are primarily interested in their own needs.

Making it appear that copyright benefits the creators is a great way to have creators support

Both the technological revolution ushered in by plummeting copying costs and the Internet threaten the corporations and copyright collectives.   Corporate interests want to regain absolute control of their industries while copyright collectives want to regain absolute control of their respective workforce.  Both are threatened with obsolescence due to  rapid growth of independent creators that threaten the old fashioned business models.

In response to this threat both special interest groups have been lobbying governments around the world to use legislative means to turn back the hands of time.   Canada’s draft copyright legislation new copyright legislation will vest absolute power in Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) and give in to these demands with Bill C-11, which is ironically called “The Copyright Modernization Act.”

There is Still Time to Say “No”

[This is the second in my C-11 Copyright Series. Canada’s majority government is poised to pass Bill C-11, the co-called “Copyright Modernization Act” in spite of unprecedented Canadian opposition. The tragedy is most Canadians are unaware of copyright issues and don’t yet realize the growing impact it exerts over our daily lives.

This is the second in my C-11 Copyright Series:

C-11 ~ Canadians Don’t Know From TPMs

Forget that TPMs/DRM/Digital Locks have radically shifted the foundations of property law … legal precedents that have evolved over centuries.

Or that Bill C-11 will make circumventing digital locks illegal.  Even when copyright is not being infringed, so Canadians can be prevented from using/watching/playing/reading the software, movie, music or book that we have legally purchased.   It will even be possible for manufacturers to prevent us from accessing works that are in the public domain.

Don’t worry that C-11 has within it the legal authority to stifle innovation, and worse, impede Canadian Independent production by raising artificial barriers.  Artificially making it difficult or impossible for Canadian creators to self publish our own work.

The worst thing about digital locks is that most people don’t even know they exist and worse,

most Canadians won’t even realize they are breaking the law.

Although I dislike polls on principal, I did a few this past week to try to get a handle on the the issue.  So I asked a “question” on Facebook, and got a few replies before deciding to give PollDaddy a try. I asked the same set of questions in both places so would be able to combine the results.

Keeping it simple the first question was “Do you know what DRM is?”

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

DRM has been getting a bit of press every year.  Even so, nearly 30% of my respondants don’t know what DRM is.

I think it was just this past year that animator Nina Paley turned down a Netflix distribution deal for her animated feature film “Sita Sings the Blues” because Netflix would only carry it with DRM.

Although self publishing authors have been able to choose whether or not our digital editions would be encumbered by DRM for some time now, most mainstream publishers have routinely applied DRM to all their offerings. Baen Books has been publishing DRM free for 13 years, and J.K.Rowling‘s Harry Potter ebooks were launched DRM free through her Pottermore site earlier this year. Just this week science fiction publisher TOR announced that it would be going DRM free.

DRM stands for “Digital Rights Management,” although I’ve also read “Digital Restrictions Management” and “Dishonest Relationship Misinformation,” all of which refer to digital controls placed on media and devices that control how the consumers who purchase them can use them.

The right to read – publishers who drop DRM

Imagine if each book in your library had a padlock with a different key for every single book. DRM – Digital Rights Management or Digital Restriction Management – are such padlocks. Not the best library solution you have heard of? Well, you are beginning to get publishers on your side. eBooks published by science fiction publisher Tor UK drops DRM. Tor UK, Tor Books and Forge are divisions of Pan Macmillan. They are not alone – science fiction publisher Baen Books, genre publisher Angry Robots, and even J.K. Rowling offer her Harry Potter books DRM-free. If you know of other publishers, please add them below. Protecting the right to read, we need to encourage publishers who drop DRM and use the open ePub-format and buy our books at their stores.”

Haakon Meland Eriksen

To understand why mainstream publishers are beginning to reject DRM read Charlie’s Diary: More on DRM and ebooks

My first Day Against DRM was in 2010. And May 4th — Friday next week — is this year’s “International Day Against DRM — May 4, 2012

My second Poll question was “Do You Know What Digital Locks Are?”

Pie chart: 36.6% Yes 36.6% No and 27.7% Not Sure

Anyone who has been following the Canadian government’s push for copyright reform will have been hearing and reading about digital locks for more than a decade. Canadian governments have been trying to change the Copyright Act since the American government passed the the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). The first attempt at a “Canadian DMCA” was the Liberal Bill C-60, and when the Conservative Party formed the subsequent government they carried the torch with Bill C-61, then C-32 and now C-11. But until now Canada has been blessed with minority governments. Unfortunately, now that we have a majority government determined to appease the Americans there is every reason to believe that this time it will pass, even though the majority of Canadians oppose the digital lock provisions.

And you guessed it, a “Digital Lock” is another way to describe “DRM.”

The final question in my poll was “Do you know what TPMs are?”

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


Bill C-11 doesn’t talk about DRM or Digital locks, but rather TPMs, which are “Technological Protection Measures”.

Technological Protection Measures take a step beyond digital locks, or DRM, because they encompass DRM/digital locks but can also be applied to non digital locks.

Some appliances or hardware are screwed closed with specialty screws that require proprietary screw drivers. Without the proper screwdrivers, these things can’t be opened to modify or repair them. Since this is a “technical protection measure”, it is reasonable to assume that Bill C-11 will make it illegal to repair any such equipment unless you have the proprietary tools.

This is a Poll

I’m not a professional pollster and my poll sample is very small. With only 22 responses, it isn’t very scientific poll. Still, it gives an idea. Because I’m a free culture advocate, a lot of the people who read my blogs or talk to me online, or even read my novel are going to be much more aware of these issues than the average Canadian. So I’m surprised; I would have expected more people to understand the terms. Or at least think they do.

77.27% said they don’t know what TPMs are.

[Correction of fact: "Technical Protection Measures" has been amended to the term used in Bill C-11 "Technological Protection Measures"]

Legal Today, Not Tomorrow? ~ Bill C-11

Canadian DMCA logo

Bill C-11, Canada’s so-called “Copyright Modernization Act” has passed second reading in the House of Commons and is now before the parliamentary committee.

Since I am preparing my debut novel for eBook release, I’m trying not to pay attention, yet I find myself reading Russell McOrmond’s Bill C-11 Legisative Committee coverage.  Russell is both Live tweeting and blogging about each meeting day.   This legislation is simply too important to ignore, not just for me, as a self publishing writer, but for Canada, and the heritage and culture that is so much a part of who we are.

I can’t actually watch the proceedings myself, even though they are being broadcast online by CPAC.  Beginning with cable TV coverage, CPAC has provided Canadians with a ringside seat to Canadian parliamentary proceedure since 1992.   The problem is that this video is provided onsite in Windows Media Player format.

Problem: In order to watch video in the proprietary Windows Media Player, you need to have Windows, and I don’t.

It seems I can’t watch the livestream of the actual parliamentary committee meetings because I have chosen to use free software. I don’t use Windows anymore, nor do I use any of the various Apple computers. My operating system on *this* computer is Ubuntu, and the one on my desktop computer is Trisquel.

But of course, that’s the point.  Proprietary digital devices and content try to force the user to use the software or device specified by the manufacturer. Once you buy into any proprietary system, it is difficult to switch to another.  In this case it’s Microsoft, although it could as easily be Apple, or Sony, or any one of a plethora of rich and powerful companies that make proprietary software and hardware.

And why not? Microsoft built the Windows Media Player, and they want people to use it in their operating system.

In the past, circumventing proprietary formats might have resulted in a voided warranty. But it seems to me that Bill C-11 will make it illegal.

I expect CPAC paid rather a lot to be able to license the Windows media player.  But since Windows is still the dominant OS, it seems like a reasonable choice to reach the most people.  And CPAC wants all Canadians to have access to the video they create. That’s what they do.

And CPAC understands, because it attempts to circumvent the problem by  advising  us to copy the link below the video into our own video player if we are having problems.

I tried that, but it didn’t work on either the Ubuntu Movie Player or Banshee Media Player.   Even so, I wasn’t positive it was a proprietary issue the problem was until a friend tried to resolve it.

Apparently Flip4Mac WMV program converted the proprietary Windows video format to a proprietary Mac video format.

The other solution that CPAC offers is to use a program called VLC. Ironically I used that free software video player back when I still used Windows, but haven’t managed to get it to work in either of my gnu/linux machines.

The long and the short of it is that, because I am not able to run the proprietary Windows Media Player, I am effectively locked out of the digital government video CPAC routinely shares with Canadians.

An Illustration of Bill C-11

In a strange way this demonstrates why legal protection of TPMs — regardless of legality — is the central point of Bill C-11 that has Canadians concerned. As written, Bill C-11 would criminalize Canadians who circumvent TPMs (technical protection measures) even if we are legally entitled to access the content that is locked by these “digital locks”.

Although I’m neither a technical person or a lawyer, I think Bill C-11 would make software like the VLC player illegal in Canada because it circumvents proprietary TPMs.

And Bill C-11 will make both tools to circumvent and the act of circumvention of TPMs illegal.

It wouldn’t matter that CPAC wants to share their content with me, Microsoft would have to grant permission to convert proprietary formats into free formats, or else it would be illegal. Microsoft’s current policies indicate any such permission would be unlikely, but even if it did, the tools to circumvent the proprietary TPMs – like VLC – would be illegal, so I wouldn’t be able to do it anyway.

Lawyers like Michael Geist and Howard Knopf and tech folks like Russell McOrmond, Wayne Borean, Bob Jonkman and Cory Doctorow have said Bill C-11 would not be such a problem if TPM circumvention was only illegal if tied to copyright infringement.

the shape of things to come

But if they pass Bill C-11 as written, it will become illegal for Canadians to circumvent TPMs so we can watch our government in action. Or to back up our software, Or format shift so we can watch DVDs on MP3 players.

Depending on what TPMs manufacturers employ, it may become illegal to read public domain eBooks on our e-readers, or play DVDs that aren’t region encoded.  Which would mean that independent film makers wouldn’t be able to put their original movies on DVDs.  Independent musicians might be prevented from distributing their original work digitally.  The range of consequences are appalling.

How long until it becomes illegal to load free software on our computers?

If Bill C-11 passes, not long at all.

[Edited for readability (replacing a bit of awkward phrasing) but content remains the same.]

Image credits
Screencap cc-by 1111aether

Against DRM cc-by Nina Paley

Promotional Material and Copyright ~ C11

Copyright "c"

Have you every noticed how much publicity material is labeled with
© Copyright ~ All Rights Reserved

I am at the point where I will not include any images in my blogs that lack license information.

Why on earth would I reproduce any promotional material ~ why should I plug your art show, book, movie, music, film premiere, marketplace or anything else, if doing so could result in a fine or takedown?

Creative Commons logo

I have become hyper sensitive in regard to copyright issues, since real or perceived copyright violations can result in a DMCA takedown ~ or worse ~ if these laws like our own Canadian Bill C-11 passes.

If you include original art on promotional material in future without using a Creative Commons License or something similar I simply won’t use it.

Canadian DMCA logo

In the past, I might have shared promotional material even though it did not have a license explicitly allowing its use, so long as it it didn’t specify ‘copyright all rights reserved’ either. Once The American SOPA (Stop Online Piracy) and the Canadian Bill C-11 come into effect, I will no longer do that on any blog or website under my control without explicit license permission.

Because the price is simply too high.

What to do about Bill C-11 ?

Canadian DMCA logoI should be getting ready for NaNoWriMo. The problem is that the danger to Canadian culture posed by Bill C-11, the so called “Copyright Modernization Act,” currently moving toward becoming law, is simply too great to ignore.

I can’t ignore this and expect to get anywhere with my next novel. So I’ve decided to try to post something about C-11 every day (after making my NaNoWriMo word count 🙂 Because both my self publishing efforts and writing my third novel during NaNo will claim most of my time, these posts will be much shorter than my usual blog posts.

The Canadian DMCA in Today’s News

boingboing logo

Cory Doctorow blogged about the response received by a Canadian citizen in answer to their C11 query from Conservative MP Lee Richardson, a member of the Standing Committee on Industry. Since copyright law falls under the joint purview of the Ministry of Heritage and the Ministry of Industry, Lee Richardson ought to be pretty well versed in this issue. Richardson is quoted as writing:

If a digital lock is broken for personal use, it is not realistic that the creator would choose to file a law suit against the consumer, due to legal fees and time involved.”

— Conservative MP Lee Richardson
BoingBoing: Canadian Tory MP: Don’t worry about violating our stupid new copyright law, because we probably won’t catch you if you do

Cory Doctorow’s assessment is that this amounts to advice from the Government passing this law is:

“…you should go ahead and break the law because you won’t get caught.”

— Cory Doctorow
BoingBoing: Canadian Tory MP: Don’t worry about violating our stupid new copyright law, because we probably won’t catch you if you do

Now, I am not a lawyer, but if this is not the law’s intent, the law should say so. Just because the copyright holder might choose not to do this, is no guarantee that they won’t.

Bill C-11 clearly allows them to sue Canadians.

Particularly when there have been innumerable clear instances of corporate “patent trolls” suing unsuspecting citizens in the wake of the American DMCA and every similar copyright ‘reform’ enacted around the world.

If this is *not* the government’s intent, this part of Bill C11 must be changed.

The Canadian Government should not be encouraging citizens to ignore Canadian law.

what we can do

I believe there are various petitions being gotten up, but I urge all concerned Canadians to tell the government that we do not support the digital lock provisions in Bill C-11. Sending an email is a stronger message than signing a digital petition. The message you send doesn’t have to be long and involved. Just weigh in and tell them what you think before this law is passed.

Write to Members of the Legislative Committee on Bill C-11:

[28 October UPDATE 2011-10-28T15:48:49+00:00]

Bill C-11 Legislative Committee Chair: Glenn Thibeaultof the NDP has been named as the Bill C-11 Legislative Committee Chair

Dean Del Mastro, Conservative, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Paul Calandra, Conservative Parliamentary Secretary to the Heritage Minister
Mike Lake, Conservative Parliamentary secretary to the Industry Minister
Scott Armstrong, Conservative
Peter Braid, Conservative
Phil McColeman, Conservative
Rob Moore, Conservative
Charlie Angus, NDP Digital Affairs and Ethics Critic
Tyrone Benskin, NDP Heritage and Cultural Industries Critic
Andrew Cash, NDP
Pierre Nantel, NDP
Geoff Regan, Liberal Critic for Consumer Affairs
As well, you can write to Heritage Minister James Moore
Industry Minister The Honourable Christian Paradis
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
and as always, your own MPP [Find your MP]

It is perfectly acceptable to send the same letter to all concerned, and although postal mail is taken more seriously, email is increasingly acceptable, particularly when time is of the essence.

If you have a blog (and if you don’t, it’s pretty easy to start one for free at WordPress) you can post your letter online, making sure to tag it with #C11 and #Canada and #Copyright. Talk to friends and family about this, as well as people in your social networks,because if this law passes as is, it will have serious repercussions to Canadian culture.

More Information

If you are looking for more information about this copyright law, you can use the search bar in my sidebar, or you can search the Internet. Bill C-11 is a word for word reincarnation of Bill C-32 in the last session of parliament, so searching for Bill C-32 will give you a lot of information and analysis.

The authorities I look to for C-11 information include: