Canada’s New Copyright Laws

June 2, 2010

You may have heard that Canada has introduced a new set of rules governing how we access and use digital media. Our version of the DCMA, which was called “draconian” a few days ago by some other stupid blogger, is actually not as hard-hitting as some people feared. But it is a little strange.

The governing Tories tried this a couple of years ago, but it fell apart in the face of widespread public outcry. That early version of the bill was an in-your-face kiss-up to the corporate entertainment world, but this one, while still heavily favouring record labels, movie studios and software developers, offers some clear rules for consumers.

Under the new rules, this is legal:

  • MP3 players: This was a grey area before, but no longer. I can “format shift” my legally purchased movies and music to my iPod without worrying about the Mounties kicking in my door.
  • Recording: I can tape TV shows and movies off TV for my own use. You can use a PVR, which I would also do if I had a decent job.
  • Do homework: The new law makes it okay for teachers to photocopy or digitally copy copyrighted works for classroom use. Millions of Canadian children just groaned.
  • Weaponry: It is now legal to use industrial snippers to cut CDs into the shape of ninja throwing stars. I used to do this with AOL CDs, but it’s more fun when it’s that copy of Shaq Fu your ex bought you.
  • Goof off: The law says I can remix and re-edit music and video for comedic and satiric purposes, as long as it’s not for profit. Hey, I don’t do anything for profit, but that’s kind of an accident.

Under the new rules, this is illegal:

  • Downloading from P2P sites. If I don’t pay for it, I don’t get to have it. This is what is traditionally known as “stealing,” a position I have stood by for years, except when I wanted to hear what all the Justin Bieber fuss was about, but didn’t want anyone to see me buying the CD.
  • Piracy: Sites that help pirates share movies, music and software are illegal. If a copyright holder finds a site trafficking in its product, it can have the site’s ISP issue a warning to the site’s owner.
  • Country music.
  • Breaking any kind of digital lock. If it’s locked, and I crack it, I’m a crook, and also amazed at my ability to do anything remotely high-tech. The law also makes it illegal to buy, download, import or sell software allowing people to unlock CDs, DVDs, etc. If you’re caught, you’ll pay a fine of up to $500.
  • Copying: This one is weird. I am now allowed to make one backup copy of a song or movie (as long as I don’t break a digital lock). And the song or movie has to be legally acquired. If I make a second copy, I am a crook, and could go to jail. And if it’s a second copy of a Justin Bieber song, I deserve to.

The law hasn’t yet been passed; it’s still in its earliest stages, but I am encouraged by the built-in modification aspect of it. It has a series of flexible adjustment points that will allow it to grow, and adapt, as technology changes. That’s encouraging, and indicates a kind of forward-thinking we’re not used to with this government. I’ll keep you posted as this story unfolds.



  1. Country music is illegal there? That’s hardcore.

  2. Except for the “breaking DRM” part, isn’t it pretty much exactly the same as before?

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