Thursday, June 12, 2008

All Canadians Need to Beware!

I normally wouldn't post on something like this, but it is literally a cause that could destroy Canadian technology overnight if it not stopped. I hope you will all take the time to browse some of the many links I've provided here, and read up on this issue.

Bill C-61 "An Act to amend the Copyright Act", introduced by Industry Minister Jim Prentice (largely considered a prime candidate for the next leadership of the Conservative party), had its first reading today.

While this may seem boring to most of you, if passed, this would totally destroy many of the privileges you enjoy in today's technological society.

While parts of the bill are reasonable, the primary point of concern is section 41. This is the widely-expected "Digital Millenium Copyright Act" style anti-circumvention regulations. Basically, what they say is that making, selling or even talking about any device that could possibly circumvent any copy protection is illegal.

Basically, this means that any encrypted content (most technology made in the past decade, for example) cannot be accessed except expressly how the creator has specified. C-61 spells out explicitly what were formerly just implied rights. But section 41 overrides every right you have, including those they explicitly give you in section 29.

The following things would now be illegal under section 41.
  • Any DVR used for cable or satellite TV. This includes things like Tivo, but more importantly, could even extend to your VCR, or anything that lets you watch a show later.
  • Copying music to a CD or iPod to play in your car.
  • Unlocking a cell phone for use on another carrier.
  • Giving your friends instructions on how to repair his broken car stereo.

In fact, even TALKING about the above things could be illegal. Unless you're in a strictly academic setting, a simple twelve-year-old hobbyist trying to figure out how to make a DVD player would be fined up to $20,000 if he told anyone what he did. In fact, I would have to get a very good lawyer if this law passed just to justify some of my hobby projects (under the 'interoperability' exemption) or my publications (under the academic exemption). I would have to take a hammer to my perfectly legal Xbox, which despite not being usable for any sort of piracy, is not protected by any exemption.

You think it's not that bad? The American version of the DMCA was described by its creator as being a dismal failure, and has been rife with frequent abuse since it came out. The anti-circumvention provisions in C-61 are actually described as worse than the US equivalents!

If you currently live in Canada, you need to talk to your MPs. Right now. Don't wait. Email. Letters. ANYTHING to make sure this bill dies (or, like the Liberals, the government dies before the bill).

Here's some neutral coverage from the major outlets. They are only loosely accurate, but show the sort of front-page attention the issue is getting.
[ CBC National Post Globe and Mail ]