(Adds reaction, details on penalties)
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, June 12 Canadians will be allowed to
copy legally acquired music to their iPods and computers but
would be banned from getting around any digital locks that
companies might apply, under new legislation introduced in
Parliament on Thursday.
The bill, introduced by Industry Minister Jim Prentice,
would also reduce the penalties that companies could seek for
most private infringements of copyrights to a maximum total of
C$500 ($490) from a previous C$20,000 per infringement.
Currently, for example, someone downloading five movies
without authorization for private use could be sued for
C$100,000, whereas now the maximum would be C$500 -- a level
that would make firms unlikely to pursue such individuals.
"It's not a fine. It's actually a form of damages. In other
words, it's the rights holders that have to pursue. It's not
the state -- it's not criminal," a government official, who
asked not to be identified, told reporters in a briefing.
Heavy, commercial levels of piracy, however, could face far
more severe liabilities in corporate lawsuits and would also
continue to be subject to government prosecution, with
penalties of up to five years in prison.
The bill would still exempt Internet service providers from
liability for copyright violations by their subscribers, and
would require them only to pass on notices of violations rather
than to take down offending material as required in the United
It would also allow consumers to record television and
radio programs for playing back at a later time, a practice
known as time-shifting, but would prohibit people from keeping
them indefinitely in a personal library of recordings.
In drafting the legislation, the government said it faced
the delicate task of balancing the rights of content creators
with the realities and needs of everyday life in a digital
world, and also realizing the difficulty of policing possible
Prentice said of the issue: "It touches each and every one
of us, and it is no surprise to find so many different points
of view with respect to copyright."
One online group, Fair Copyright for Canada, was set up on
Facebook in advance of the new bill to protest against the
government's copyright plans and has 40,000 members.
Its creator, University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist,
focused on provisions under which it would be illegal to break
"Prentice hands consumers a series of attention-grabbing
new 'private rights' but then proceeds to take them away in the
digital environment," he wrote. "All these rights force
consumers to read the fine print -- you can shift a song or a
television show, but once it's locked down, your rights
disappear and your potential liability skyrockets."
However, Canadian performers, publishers and the music
industry said the new legislation would help protect their work
and encourage investment.
INDUSTRY NOT AFTER SMALL FISH
Industry officials say their big concern is not individual
private infringements but those who upload material to the
Internet and make money off it.
"We'd only be concerned with the most egregious violators,
people who try to make a business out of the trade and
infringement of materials," Duncan McKie, president of the
Canadian Independent Record Production Association.
"We're not that concerned about people in their basements
sharing a few files here and there. Obviously to pursue those
people would be very difficult and very expensive."
Penalties of up to C$20,000 per infringement would however
apply if digital locks were hacked, for example to make an
unauthorized copy of a computer game.
These higher penalties would also still apply for posting
music using the Internet or peer-to-peer technology, or for
posting a copyright-protected work, such as a picture or video,
onto a website such as Facebook or YouTube.
Under the bill, hacking for commercial purposes would now
be subject to criminal prosecution by the government.
The bill would also make it illegal to provide, sell or
import the hacking tools used to circumvent digital locks.
The main opposition Liberal Party slammed the legislation
as a half-baked measure that neglected consulting all sides.
"How are you going to enforce this when existing
jurisprudence doesn't allow you to walk into someone's home?"
asked Liberal Dan McTeague.
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren and Louise Egan;
editing by Rob Wilson)