Everyday habits could become illegal under plans to modernize copyright laws in Canada.
The National Post reports that taping a favourite show on television, using a personal cellphone overseas or listening to music on a newly-purchased CD. But industry officials and observers say that each activity is being threatened by existing copyright regulations and the Conservative government’s pledge to “modernize” Canada’s laws with a new piece of legislation that could make these and other related everyday consumer habits illegal.
“There are a growing number of people who recognize that this legislation will directly touch what people can do with their own personal property,” said Michael Mr. Geist, the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce law at the University of Ottawa.
“Even though you may have purchased your CD or a DVD or a cell phone or an electronic book, what you can do with those things… can be limited by the law, and you can actually become an infringer if you seek to make use of those in ways that the owner (of creative rights) doesn’t want you to.”
In December, Mr. Geist set up a group on the social networking website Facebook to stop Industry Minister Jim Prentice’s from introducing legislation to reform Canada’s copyright laws. Nearly 40,000 people have joined the group, many of them fearing the government is on the verge of copying the 1998 U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The U.S. legislation makes it illegal to tamper with a digital lock that was designed to prevent someone either from: copying of music or other material from a CD; viewing a DVD on a player outside its designated region or country; or using a cell phone overseas with the phone company of your choice instead of your Canadian provider, Mr. Geist explained.
The Americans have made an exception for people who want to unlock a cell phone that is restricted for use on the network of the company that sold it, but he said it is still illegal in the U.S. to distribute the software that is required to unlock the phone for use with another service provider.
Mr. Geist also noted that in schools or libraries, the U.S. laws would prevent students from making copies of material they use for research purposes.
But he and some industry stakeholders have acknowledged that Canada should adopt some elements of the U.S. legislation that offer flexibility for the “fair use” of intellectual property. They say that under the existing laws in Canada, a person could be sued for producing a parody of a politician based on real images, sound or video, or even for recording a television program.
The restrictions recently prompted the popular on demand Internet video site, YouTube.com, to remove a parody of the former president of the CBC appearing at parliamentary hearings because of a complaint from the speaker of the House of Commons.