CDs, DVDs, HDTVs, digital media players, smartphones, ringtones,
and file-sharing technologies expand a consumer's ability to
obtain, store and enjoy music, movies and television shows. There
is no question that Canadian copyright law needs to be updated to
reflect modern technologies, but debates have continued for years
regarding the question of appropriate balance between consumers and
The Canadian government recently tabled new copyright
legislation in the form of Bill C-32. Previous governments have
introduced bills to modernize Canadian copyright legislation but,
for various reasons, these bills have not passed legislation. Bill
C-32 expands consumers' rights by codifying many
"day-to-day" activities (many of which are currently
technically illegal) such as:
Format Shifting: Under Bill C-32
"format shifting" is permitted so that a consumer may
copy a movie or music or other copyrighted material to another
format so that the consumer can enjoy the material on the other
format; for example, copying a CD onto a computer hard drive, iPod
or mp3 player.
Time Shifting: Bill C-32 authorizes,
"time shifting" (copying a television programme to a
recorder such as a personal video recorder (PVR)). An important
proviso is that the individual may keep the recording no longer
than is reasonably necessary in order to listen to or view the
programme at a more convenient time.
Backup Copying: Backup copies of
copyrighted works are expressly permitted by Bill C-32, in
case the source copy is lost, damaged or otherwise rendered
Many have lauded these provisions as good
"pro-consumer" steps; however, all of these provisions
are subject to an important qualification: if the copyrighted
source work contains a "digital lock", a consumer cannot
engage in format shifting, time shifting or the making of backup
copies. In other words, a consumer is not permitted to circumvent
technological prevention measures such as digital locks to engage
in copying activities which would otherwise be legal.
The implication of the digital lock provision is that the owner
of the copyright will be able to stop a consumer from engaging in
many activities which would otherwise be expressly permitted by the
legislation. The "digital lock provisions" have sparked
the greatest amount of controversy.
Copyright is all about striking a balance. On one hand, content
creators require copyright protection in order to create incentives
for the creation of new works such as music and movies. Content
creators like digital locks because they can control the extent to
which copies are made. They argue that, by having these controls,
more attractive pricing can be offered to consumers. On the other
hand, many consumers feel that, if they purchase a copyrighted work
such as a DVD and Canadian copyright law permits backup copies and
format shifting, it should be lawful to circumvent a digital lock
to do so.
It is a matter of opinion regarding whether the consumer or the
copyright holder "wins" under the current proposals (or
indeed whether it is "a draw") and the discussion about
the digital lock provisions will likely be escalated in the
political arena over the next few months. It remains to be seen
whether most consumers will feel strongly one way or the other.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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