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    Canada Finally Updates its Copyright Laws by Enacting Bill C-11
    Posted: 2012-06-25 05:00:31


    Following 15 years of debate, criticism, and three previously failed attempts, Canada has successfully modernized the Copyright Act. Bill C-11, An Act to Amend the Copyright Act, passed on its third vote on June 18, 2012. Bill C-11’s predecessors, Bills C-60, C-61, and C-32, all failed to pass due to the calling of federal elections; however, Bill C-11 is likely to become law before the end of summer.

    The last time the Copyright Act was updated was in 1997. With the exponential growth of the Internet, file sharing, and online music, Canada’s copyright laws became quickly outdated. Numerous attempts failed to modernize the Copyright Act; however, this was not due to a lack of effort, but rather a lack of a majority government. Since the first attempt at copyright modernization, Canada has seen only minority governments. As a result, six federal elections have caused the quashing of three copyright modernizing bills, but, no longer. Canada’s Copyright Act has finally reached the culmination it has been waiting for—Updating.

    With most bills proceeding through Parliament there is no shortage of debate and controversy. Canada¬ís attempts to amend its copyright laws have been no different. Each copyright law-amending bill has seen its fair share of criticism, so much criticism that when Parliament attempted to enact Bill C-32, a Legislative Committee was assembled to analyze the Bill and consider the opinions of various individuals and advocacy groups. There were many criticisms of each copyright modernizing bill; however, the two main criticisms were their similarities to US¬ís Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the technological protection measure (TPM), or ¬ďdigital lock¬Ē, provisions.

    The main criticism with SOPA was its stringency. Some felt that in an effort to combat the abundance of online piracy and copyright infringement, SOPA went to the extreme. It seemed to favour the rights of copyright owners to the detriment of users. An ideal copyright regime would maintain equilibrium between the rights of copyright owners and those of users. SOPA seemed to unnecessarily shift this balance.

    There was, and still is, no shortage of controversy surrounding the TPM provisions of Bill C-11. A TPM is a technological method intended to promote the authorized use of digital works. TPMs can be considered to be like a virtual fence or digital lock that places limitations on what a user can do with a work. Critics have felt that these locks give copyright holders a power over their intellectual property that copyright laws were never intended to provide.

    According to Bill C-11, circumvention of a TPM is considered to be an illegal act. The reason why Bill C-11 has received so much criticism is because the legislative provisions protecting TPMs are in direct contraction with other provisions in the Bill; more specifically, the fair dealing provisions. Fair dealing provides certain exceptions to copyright infringement by allowing users, who fall into specific categories, to use a work without asking the copyright owner’s permission. These specific categories are: research, private study, criticism, review, or news reporting. The contradiction occurs when a user, who falls into the aforementioned categories, is locked out of a work because the copyright owner has included a TPM. Even though they qualify for a fair dealing exception, these users are forced to circumvent the TPM, which is illegal according to Bill C-11. Parliament feels that there are numerous exceptions in Bill C-11 that can counter-balance these circumstances; however, many do not feel the same way.

    Bill C-11 will implement numerous changes that will be necessary to update the Copyright Act. Some of these changes include: adding more categories for fair dealing such as parody and/or satire; provisions for statutory damages; and attempts to bridge the gap between international and Canadian copyright laws. Parliament is optimistic, but many are skeptical. In the meantime, Canada will be in a position to finally ratify the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), which will put the nation on equal footing with its major technological trading partners.

    Time will tell whether or not Bill C-11 will achieve its goal of appropriately modernizing copyright law and balancing the rights of users and copyright owners.

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