Canadians reject changes to Copyright Act

It’s too early to say the verdict is in on proposed changes to Canada’s Copyright Act. But public commentary posted on an Industry Canada Web site shows an overwhelming rejection of the amendments, which would largely mirror the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S.

Among the proposed amendments would be an exclusive right of copyright owners to make their works available online, preventing the circumvention of technologies that protect the material and prohibiting tampering with rights management information.

Among the first to post comments on the amendments was serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban, whose sale of to Yahoo! allowed him to become the colourful and controversial owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

“I think the DMCA in the U.S. has put a severe crimp in the development of the Internet here,” Cuban said in an e-mail interview.

“It has killed the streaming media industry and made the government here a shill for the music industry. I just didn’t want to see the same thing happen in Canada.

“Canada has a chance to put its citizens first and to become a digital leader in the world, and my hope is that this is exactly what happens.”

It’s the outlawing of circumvention technologies that raises hackles among IT professionals.

Under the DCMA, copyright owners like Adobe have had a Russian developer charged and jailed for cracking e-book security; secured an injunction against a computer magazine that would reveal DVD-cracking code; and threatened to sue a Princeton professor who won a contest by cracking the music industry’s digital encryption scheme — then refused to sign an NDA that forbade him from discussing how it was done.

“If a company publishes a new encryption standard and claims it to be secure, I should be allowed to test the validity of the claim,” wrote software engineer Christian Charette to the Intellectual Property Policy Directorate (IPPD), which is assembling and analyzing public comments on the amendments.

“I should be free as an individual to attempt to explore their software and publish any results that come from my tests in a public forum.”

“Often, technological measures are referred to as ‘protection,'” wrote computer science student Ashley George. “This is a misleading term abused for its positive connotations. Technological measures are not about protection. They are about control: control of sold media, control of content, control of consumer use, control of fees and control of services.”

While others noted concerns about the freedom of speech and privacy implications of the legislation, at least one commentator called the reforms unconstitutional. Since computer programs are considered literature under copyright law, argued Cam Smithers, banning the development of circumvention technologies violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“It would make a mockery of Canada and all that it stands for,” he wrote.

IPPD analyst Albert Cloutier said that the directorate hasn’t had enough time to synthesize the results into discernable trends, but expects a summary by the end of the month. That summary will be presented for further public comment.

Public submissions are available on the Web at html.

More on the story in the November issue of eBusiness Journal.

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