Copy Rights

Bill C-61 burns right to burn media

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Recording studio

Another new copyright bill has created a heated debate, firing up consumers over their right to burn copies of media.

Tabled in June by Minister of Industry Jim Prentice, Bill C-61 outlines a set of rules governing the sharing and copying of media in Canada. Supporters have praised the bill for its fairness, highlighting its allowance for CD to mp3 player conversion.

The bill includes a new statutory damage award of $500 for music downloading and fines of up to $20,000 for specific circumstances such as circumventing digital locks and illegally uploading onto YouTube or peer-to-peer networks.

University of Western Ontario Tories President Amber Ruddy called the amendments to the Copyright Act “long-overdue” and “much-needed.”

“Bill C-61 will allow producers to get credit and legitimate financial compensation for their work. It is an appropriate balance of rights between those that produce content and those that consume it,” Ruddy explained.

Andrew Bray, member of the Guelph musical group The Craft Economy disagreed entirely.

“I can tell you that it certainly does nothing for us. I don’t know anybody in the independent music scene that was involved in crafting the law.”

Bray also explained charging money for a CD does not necessarily bring in much money.

“You can actually give your music away for free and still have hundreds of people pay for it at the same time,” he said. “We’re very lucky that we’ve got the technology and know how to do this today. The music industry has changed. There isn’t only one path to success now.”

The Craft Economy’s newest single entitled “Kill Bill C-61” protests the limitations of copyright legislation. The band has distributed the CD throughout Guelph for free, posting it to telephone polls and handing it out to fans.

“Releasing our music for free ... allows people to use it in new and interesting ways without worrying about bizarre licensing issues,” Bray said.

In protest of Bill C-61, websites and Facebook groups have emerged. Kyle MacNeil started a Facebook group this summer called “Canadians Against the New Copyright Bill C-61.” Over 80,000 members have joined.

MacNeil recalled the story of a friend who owns a second home in the country. After buying a movie, MacNeil’s friend makes one back-up copy for his home in town and another for his house outside the city.

This type of activity would be infringement under the new laws, since the proposed copyright legislation limits the number of copies an individual can make to the number of devices he or she owns.

“Where’s the harm in that?” MacNeil questioned. “He is not selling, distributing or using it for public performances.”

MacNeil warned the industry could take advantage of the Copyright Act changes: “All the media companies would need to do is place locks on all materials they distribute ... and you are no longer allowed to make any copies of your purchased media,” he explained.

Listening to music

Teachers are also feeling the pressure from the bill. Although universities and colleges would be allowed to broadcast material over the internet, it must be limited only to students enrolled in the course or individuals acting under the authority of the educational institution.

Additionally, any copies of the lessons must also be deleted 30 days after final course evaluations.

While on-campus students can keep copies of their notes and hard copy material, correspondence students would be forced to destroy their digital lectures.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has taken an official stance against the bill because of these limitations.

CAUT professional officer Paul Jones compared the potential legislation to book burning.

Jones criticized the bill for its limitations: “It should be scrapped.”

Fair dealing, a set of clauses under the current Canadian Copyright Act, allows individuals to copy portions of copyrighted work for the purpose of private research and study.

According to Jones, the bill undermines fair dealing, since copying any encrypted material falls under its list of infringements.

The bill has industry support both nationally and internationally. Groups outside Canada such as the Recording Industry Association of America support the bill, as it would bring Canadian copyright laws closer to American legislation.

Within Canada, supporters include the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists. Public relations officer Kim Hume wrote: “ACTRA does not support all changes included in Bill C-61, but sees the bill as a good first step for artists and for Canada’s international reputation.”

The bill has also been praised for bringing Canada up to the standards of the World Intellectual Property Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations designed to monitor the use of intellectual property.

“It’s been more than a decade since Canada signed on to the WIPO copyright treaties. Implementing these treaties as the bill will bring our laws into the 21st century,” said ACTRA’s national executive director Stephen Waddell.

ACTRA thinks Bill C-61 is not quite strict enough and called for further protection of artists.

“We would be deeply concerned if the bill allows people to copy artists’ work onto media devices like iPods without compensation for creators,” Brad Keenan, director of ACTRA Performers’ Rights Society and Sound Recording Division, said.

Jones criticized the government for listening to powerful outside sources, pleading for an end to conversation with ‘American big wigs’ and suggested listening to Canadians instead.

Bray agreed: “It’s not grassroots; it isn’t being pushed by artists. We believe that Canadians should have the rights to use art in new and challenging ways.”

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