The Conservative government cleverly tabled Bill C-61 shortly after a massive and public apology to First Nations people over the horrific school system that attempted to forcibly assimilate generations of First Nations people. The press focused on the First Nations apology, as it should have. Canada’s history on matters of race is not pretty, and this was one of the darker episodes in it. (Of course, little was said about groups of First Nations people forcibly resettled, which remains an issue today as part of Canada’s bizarre “Arctic sovereignty” strategy.)
But C-61 is starting to get coverage of its own now, which is good. This bill will be an unmitigated disaster for universities, libraries and end users. It is essentially a copy of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, except even more draconian. It will make it many day to day forms of file-copying (such as time-shifting television) potentially illegal, since it will now be illegal to circumvent any digital lock put on any content or device. Effectively, this takes copyright out of the public domain and makes it a contractual matter between content-provider and consumer. And if the major content provision industries all agree on strict locking procedures, there is no consumer choice in the manner, except to opt out entirely and not use the internet, digital audio or video of any kind. Which for most people isn’t really a choice.
<a href=”http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/blogsection/0/125/” target=”_blank”>Michael Geist has much more thorough coverage and explanations that I, so I refer you to his site.</a>
But the thing that really gets me is how committed Canadians (and the Canadian government) are to the idea of public broadcasting, socialized medicine, and other public goods, and yet here is a bill clearly written by private industry with no regard for the public good whatsoever (beyond PR-like window dressing). Its own parliamentary spokespeople clearly don’t understand it. And there is a good deal of suspicion that the U.S. content industry had a role to play in this supposedly “made in Canada” legislation. Canadians: <a href=”http://www.quadrantcrossing.org/blog/C1078271594/E20080612175843/index.html” target=”_blank”>get in touch with your MPs and parties.</a> The NDP, especially, ought to be taking a leadership role in opposing this bill.