Canadians Propose Anti-Piracy Legislation

Ericka Jensen

OTTAWA, Ontario — File-swapping Canucks could face the same legislation U.S. residents have been under since the creation of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Under new federal legislation, anyone caught illegally downloading copyrighted material will be fined a maximum of $500.

Industry Minister Jim Prentice tabled the proposed amendments to the Copyright Act in the House of Commons this week.

The proposed legislation includes new exceptions to the existing law including ones that will allow consumers to legally record TV shows and copy legally purchased music onto iPods and cellphones. Of note to file swapping consumers — an explicit ban on peer-to-peer file sharing.

Prentice said one of the impetuses behind the amendments was to balance the rights of those who hold copyright with the needs of users accessing copyright works.

"This is a unique made-in-Canada approach to copyright reform," Prentice said. "This is truly a win-win situation for Canadian consumers who use digital technology and for everyone who creates material that becomes digitally accessible."

The legislation has sparked criticism from industry experts who say it sets the stage for fines that could reach the millions and shadows the American government’s DMCA.

"So if you have music or video in your shared folder you are subject to the ordinary rules of statutory damages — which is $500 to $20,000 per work — that could be millions of dollars worth of damages," David Fewer staff council at the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic told a local Canadian TV news show. Fewer added the legislation paves the way for the kind of file-sharing lawsuits that have occurred in the United States.

The new legislation would make it illegal to copy a CD or DVD if it involves breaking a so-called "digital lock" place on the material by a distributor.

“As a user with a HTPC [home theatre personal computer] I don't like the idea that I won't have the right to rip a legally purchased CD or DVD with copy protection on it to my hard drive for easy access through a media library,” WebCamCash’s Derek Smout, a Canadian citizen, told XBIZ. “What about existing files I already have and have had for years? CDs get lost, damaged, stolen. How do I account for 'licensing' gaps in my existing collection? If they want to fix the problem, they need to go after the file sharing sites. P2P can't exist without the hubs.”