Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Another Reason I left Canada: Bill C-61

Canada currently imposes a "fine" on all digital and analog media purchased, ostensibly to compensate artists for copyright infringement you'll do with that media. If you use your CDs for a more legitimate purpose than fair use, you paid the fine anyways.

Obviously, you're guilty, proof being irrelevant. This is akin to gasoline having a surcharge added for the speeding ticket you're expected to get.

This has backfired on the music industry. If you're on the side that states that the sales have fallen because the music industry hasn't made all much worth listening to in recent years, rather than piracy, you'll applaud this: Canada's RIAA arm got a serious smackdown about two years ago when the defendant successfully argued that no further damages were due because the fine for the crime had already been paid. That meant that because of the media reimbursement/fine/tax, copying music and video had basically been legalized.

Of course, copyright holders could not let this stand, and so had their henchmen in parliament propose a draconian addition, currently called bill C-61. Hon. Minister of Industry Bill Prentice deserves to lose his seat for this. Here is the summary - you'll note similarities with the US DMCA:

  • Circumvention of encryption, no matter how trivial (like xor 81), is now a federal offence (called a felony in the US)
  • $500 fine (not clear if it's a minimum or a maximum) for each copyright violation (so a Youtube posting will average $20,000)
  • Unlocking of cellphones counts as circumvention of encryption (even if a provider locks your personal cell phone)
The issue, as always, is the fine print, usually skipped by the press. Critics who watch out for this sort of thing argue that the search and seizure rights granted by the bill and others on the books it refers to effectively make Canada a police state, like it isn't already (ask me about September 2003 at Vancouver International Airport one day).

Protests are cropping up all over the place, according to the CBC.

What's really missing from the debate are the following points:

  • The new bill would empower distributors, who are the copyright owners (artists surrender this to get distributed), so it does not help artists, and thus does not help creativity.
  • Security through Obscurity would also take over the Canadian technology market - it's okay for your bank to use XOR 81 encryption, since it's "illegal to circumvent." Tell that to your ID thief in Russia, and see if he cares. He's thankful his life was made easier.
  • Security companies, those that nudge vendors to make their software more secure, now face legal penalties like they do in the United States. Point out another flaw in Internet Explorer, go to jail. There. Microsoft's happy.
Feel safer already?

The point is, the criminals on the networks don't care about this, and they are outside the reach of Canadian law. But the folks whom you trust to keep the people with your information honest will see jail if they tell the people with your information that they're not being responsible.

Good work, Canada!

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