Copyright laws could be updated by Christmas
Published Thursday, September 29, 2011 9:02PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 6:07AM EDT
The federal government has reintroduced a copyright reform bill that it says will give owners more control over their intellectual property and ease penalties for individuals who make copies of digitally encrypted material.
The government says that Canada's existing copyright laws are outdated, having last been overhauled in 1997. But consumers today are using tablets, electronic readers and other devices that have changed the way they create and use media.
"Canadians will soon have modern copyright laws that protect and help create jobs, promote innovation, and attract new investment to Canada," Industry Minister Christian Paradis said in a statement.
"We are confident that this bill will make Canada's copyright laws forward-looking and responsive in this fast-paced digital world."
Many of the proposed changes relate to how intellectual property is handled when using electronic devices or online distribution systems. They aim to give content creators more tools to control the distribution of their work and a greater variety of legal options to exercise when their works are infringed upon.
Owners of intellectual property will be able to use "technological protection measures," or digital locks, in an attempt to prevent consumers from accessing their material without authorization.
But consumers will also benefit from the new bill, according to the government.
The Copyright Modernization Act spells out specific ways in which Canadians can make legal use of electronic material they obtain. It also drops the legal damages that individuals can sustain -- from $20,000 down to $5,000 -- for infringing on a copyright-protected work.
The Act died in the last session of Parliament and was introduced as Bill C-11 in the House of Commons on Thursday morning "without changes" from its prior version, according to the government.
New Democrat MP Charlie Angus told reporters that his party will not support the bill because there are problems relating to royalties for artists and materials for distance education, among other things.
"The previous bill was a dog's breakfast, it was completely unworkable," Angus said Thursday. "The government is looking to try to find a balance but they haven't found it yet."
Meanwhile Liberal industry critic Geoff Regan said in a statement that reintroducing the bill without any changes "makes a mockery" of earlier consultations regarding the reforms.
In the previous Parliament, Regan said, "we heard from hundreds of witnesses who presented reasonable suggestions to improve the Conservative bill. Those recommendations have been completely ignored."
Heritage Minister James Moore billed the reforms as a way for Canada to attract investment and jobs by better protecting intellectual property.
"We want to make piracy illegal in Canada, which is what this legislation does," he said Thursday on CTV's Power Play.
Under the new legislation, Moore said the onus will be on owners to defend their copyrighted material. Internet service providers will also have a responsibility to approach customers about infractions if they get a complaint about copyright infringement, he said.
Technology analyst Carmi Levy said the copyright legislation would bring Canada "up to the global standard" if it becomes law.
But the new measures will also require greater police enforcement, he said.
"We can have the most stringent legislation in force on the planet, but if police forces across the country don't in fact go ahead and enforce it more than they have been, it really isn't going to mean a whole lot."
On Twitter, Moore posted quotes from organizations that support the forthcoming changes in the legislation.
The Entertainment Software Alliance of Canada said "we strongly support the principles underlying the Copyright Act," according to one tweet Moore sent out on Thursday morning.
Both Music Canada and Access Copyright said the copyright changes were long awaited, while the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network congratulated the government for "taking strong action to protect copyright holders."
Moore told reporters that he hopes the bill will clear the House of Commons by Christmas.