Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A stop to free downloads in Canada?

In recent days, a lot of speculation has arisen around the new controversial federal copyright legislation to be approved in Canada. It is essentially an update of the current copyright law (which was last updated in 1997), in which a few new measures and penalties are considered. Among the changes proposed, it contains penalties of up to $500 Canadian dollars for each copyrighted file downloaded illegally (e.g. mp3 files downloaded from P2P programs such as Limewire), fines up to $20,000 for each file uploaded illegally, and also severe penalties for breaking digital locks (also known as Digital Rights Management technology or simply DRM).

Well, that news has been rolling in the most important newspapers nationwide lately, and of course people have expressed their concern about this new regulation. I have analyzed the comments that people have posted in forums and other communication tools available on the web, and overall people agree that the copyrights law should be updated (even though that would mean that free downloads of copyrighted material would no longer be legal, as it currently happens in Canada). However, I come to the conclusion that people are worried about the following issues:

  • Privacy: Users are worried that the authorities will invade the people's privacy in order to locate illegally downloaded material. More specifically, people are worried that internet service providers will pass private online activity information to the authorities, and also that customs agents will act as watchdogs for this issue and will potentially analyze private information and confiscate electronic devices (mp3 players, laptops, cellphones, and so on).
  • Evidence: Digital consumers are also concerned about how will the authorities identify lawfully downloaded material from illegal contents, should they inspect a person's device. Is it that people will have to carry the proof of purchase of every piece of software they carry in their equipment?
  • DRM locks: Won't users be allowed to make copies of their own rightfully purchased content any longer if the producer decided to put a DRM lock on it?
The authorities have quickly issued comments where they state that privacy won't be affected by this new regulation. However, they didn't issue a clear statement on the DRM issue, which is one of the biggest concerns about the updated law. Since unlocking software to copy will be illegal, that means that making copies of legal material for personal use or backup will be prosecuted; and, as this sort of prosecution is in the best interest of producers, will there be any of them who won't be putting locks on their products at all?

Needless to say, software producers and music recording labels were the first ones to express their satisfaction with these new project of law. But the law is supposed to be protecting intellectual property, such as musicians, authors and programmers. The question would be, should the new law be approved, will those supposed to be protected get a benefit from it? The answer appears to be no, as the money collected from fines and other penalties imposed to consumers would most likely end up in the pockets of corporations rather than the actual creators of intelectual property.

This initiative is due to be discussed later this year. Not only some skeptics think that this law would be totally unenforceable, but many see in it a premature failure, as the minority ruling Conservative party will face criticism and opposition from other parties in the Parliament. Let's keep an eye on this matter, as criticism and emotions are guaranteed!

Please refer to the note in The Globe and Mail for in-depth information about this issue


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home