Aug 21, 2008

How C-61 Affects You

For those of you who don't already know, Bill C-61 is a bill proposed by the Conservative government in June. It hasn't yet passed since Parliament is on their summer getaway, but they'll be talking about it once everything resumes in September. Essentially it is a reform to Canada's copyright laws, which as it stands are fairly relaxed when compared to other nations like the USA. The Conservatives want to "improve" the copyright laws here to reflect the vast changes in technology since the last copyright bill was passed in the mid-90's.

I believe this bill reflects the Conservative party's desire to restrict consumer rights, promote big-business and stifle innovation and freedom of choice.

How will it affect you? Well, the bill states that you can do things like format-shift (which means things like copy music from a CD to an iPod) and time-shift (which means save to watch later, like recording the hockey game or something), provided there are no digital locks (ie. DRM) on the media. This has some far-reaching consequences, basically it gives power to the producers of the media to remove the rights of the consumer simply by putting digital locks on things. Use, creation and distribution of programs that circumvent these kinds of locks will be illegal. Furthermore, the producers are not required to specify whether the media they are producing has locks or not. So consumers have no idea if they can legally "format-shift" from a CD to their iPod.
This leads to the discussion of how C-61 stifles innovation. Take an innovative product like the MP3 player (I won't restrict this just to iPods). If you go out and buy a CD that is DRM'd, then you can't use that CD on anything except a CD player that supports the DRM. No ripping it to your iPod, no copying it to your computer (last I checked Windows Media Player automatically ripped music CDs when you put them into your computer, so you could be screwed just by putting the CD in!), no freedom in how to use the media you legally bought. What are the consequences? Well, it may just destroy the CD market. How often do you see people with CD players vs. MP3 players nowadays? Every time I get on the bus, I see people with the white and grey iPod buds in their ears. These people won't be able to put music on their iPods if they can't rip music from their CDs, so they might just stop buying CDs and go with online music stores like iTunes.
One risk of this is that people may buy music from an online reseller for their specific hardware, but that music is encrypted to only work with that hardware. So the next time something nice and shiny comes out, none of the music you already have can be put onto that shiny new thing unless it also supports the DRM scheme that the older hardware uses. But it'd be illegal for the people creating the new hardware to reverse-engineer the old hardware to see how it works, so they'd have to get permission from the people who made the old hardware. Let's give three cheers for barriers to entry!

You won't be able to make backups of CDs/DVDs. You won't be able to make a mix of your music for driving in the car, unless you destroy the CD after you listen to it (also any CDs you ripped to get the music can't have any locks).

A random note, not sure if this is entirely true but I think that the fine for ripping music off a copy-protected CD is higher than the fine for downloading music from a P2P network. So why not just download the music? Oh yeah, and on the topic of P2P networks, if you so much as open a program like Limewire and have something shared, or use BitTorrent at all, then you could be subject to a fine of up to $20k.

The time-shifting thing is pretty nice, you can record a TV show for later viewing. Problem? After you watch it, you have to destroy any copies! Darn! Oh yeah, and only you can view it, you can't give it to your friend. So taping a show for your friend who is at work when the show is playing is illegal. Hopefully they don't lock down the hockey games, that'd cause a riot here in Montreal! Not that anybody misses the hockey games here.

Another random use of media: I want to build a media PC (you can get some nice looking mATX cases that would fit really well under your TV) that sits in my living room. I would use it for watching videos, but I would like to be able to copy movies to it in order to watch them without having to look for my DVD. Can I do that? Nope! Well, if the DVD isn't copy-protected I can't, but I think a lot of the DVDs out there are (let's not even start with Blu-Ray). Want to convert your now-obsolete HD DVDs to Blu-ray? Nope! Against the law.
I also would like to watch copy-protected DVDs under Ubuntu. However, I believe that you need to crack the DRM in order to watch the DVDs. Can I do that under C-61? Nope! On a side note, does Windows XP need you to crack the DRM too? That would also screw those people who are "downgrading" to XP from Vista, or all the people still using XP. So I'd have to buy a copy of Vista for my media PC. But then Vista could say, "your hardware is not authorized" and shut you down. So much for my media PC idea (this would work fine if you can use XP legally to view videos).

This is not just confined to music and movies. Suppose you're a student, and you want to cite a passage in a copy-protected PDF. In order to do this, you need to get permission from the writer. For students who are on deadlines and have to write papers with at least 15 (arbitrary number) citations, this gets a little unmanageable. Contacting the individual could be difficult to impossible, and they could just flat-out refuse. It'd be just great to fail your thesis because the key authors you're citing decide they don't want to give your permission to cite them. And think of those poor authors, they'd spend so much time answering student emails/phone calls that they'd never have time to do anything else!

So yeah, apparently it is necessary to reform our copyright law. The people who are selling copyrighted works for profit (don't get me started on the recording industries. They make tons of money off of other people's works) are being unfair and probably should be cracked down on. However I believe that C-61 will harm the average citizen much more than these other people, considering pretty much everyone I went to school with downloads music/movies. Damn those educated ones!

If you are a Canadian and would like to preserve your rights as a consumer, then I suggest you get up and start doing something about this. There is a fair copyright for Montreal group that meets every 2-3 weeks (site), and most other cities in the country have something similar (to the best of my knowledge). There are Facebook groups (for Canada, for Montreal), blogs, you could write a letter to your MP (especially if they are Conservative or Bloc Quebecois - make sure you're French for BQ, or they probably won't listen to you - I believe that the Liberals and NDP are against the bill but you may as well send it to them too), there are many things you can do.

EDIT: Here's one Conservative who gets it.


mats said...

I couldn't agree more. Lessig said it well:

Rob Britton said...

Excellent talk. He's completely right. If Bill C-61 passes (not that it would affect you guys down south) then creating that type of montage/parody stuff would be illegal in Canada. That's one of the many other ways that C-61 will affect us.

mats said...

For the record, I'm a Canadian from Quebec City.
And I'm convinced that the state of the law in one country does indeed affect laws and mindsets in other countries.

Rob Britton said...

Ah, sorry. I figured you were American since your profile says you're in Chicago.

paul said...

cam any one write thesis for 10 pages
saying is bill c-61 going in right direction ?