Source : Globe & Mail
OTTAWA — The Conservative government hasn't even released its proposed copyright reform legislation, but already a showdown is brewing between media producers demanding protection from tech-savvy pirates and the grassroots efforts of thousands of Canadians who believe the bill will be unjustifiably restrictive.
As a result, what was once a low-key issue in Ottawa is morphing into a potential political storm.
Bemoaning the influence of "Hollywood lobbyists" on the federal government, Canadian librarians yesterday added their voice to the noisy chorus of people opposing a new copyright bill that has yet to see the light of day.
The Canadian Library Association is urging Ottawa to ensure its imminent copyright legislation does not attack Canadians who copy music and videos for their own use.
Don Butcher, the association's executive director, said he supports laws that crack down on piracy, but is worried Ottawa will go too far.
"This is a battle between Hollywood lobbyists versus the average Canadian," he said yesterday at news conference on Parliament Hill.
"Over the past few weeks, Canadians across the country have demonstrated that they have serious concerns about the shape of Canadian copyright legislation."
Mr. Butcher later pointed to the May visit to Parliament Hill of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to support his claim that Hollywood interests are pressing Canada about piracy.
With thousands of iPods, MP3 players and new computers wrapped and ready for placement under Christmas trees across the country, a debate is raging over how much it should cost to load up the devices with music and movies.
Federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice was widely expected to introduce a new copyright law that would bring Canada in line with the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty aimed at reducing piracy.
However, Parliament recessed for the year without any bill, creating an unusually heated debate over file sharing and a proposed law that no one outside of government has ever seen.
Critics worry the proposed law will go far beyond what's needed to meet WIPO standards, and will be a clone of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
That act criminalizes the production of methods to circumvent access control, even when the copyright itself isn't broken – for example, breaking the access control on a CD and downloading the tracks onto a computer or other device for personal use. Critics say a Canadian version would harm free speech and research efforts, especially security research.
There have also been questions on whether the new law would allow Canadians to move media such as audio and video from one device to another, and whether it would be legal to make backup copies of items such as CDs, or if a user would have to purchase a new disc every time an old one became damaged.
A grassroots campaign opposing the proposed copyright bill has unfolded over the past few months, led in large part by University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist. But in the past few weeks, the campaign seems to have expanded. Large groups have recently formed on websites such as Facebook – where the "Fair Copyright for Canada" group boasts more than 32,000 members – expressing concern over possible limits on file sharing.
Those on the other side of the showdown are firing back.
David Baskin, legal counsel for the Canadian Music Producers Association, called Mr. Butcher's comment about Hollywood lobbyists a "cheap shot."
"The term Hollywood lobbyist is just a cheap-shot method of attempting to denigrate the interests of those who invest in and create the works that people enjoy," he said.
The arguments of those opposing copyright reform are unacceptable, he said.
"The person who creates should work for free. That's fundamentally what these people are arguing," he said.
Having seen the devastation of Internet file sharing on the music recording business, movie and television producers want laws to prevent the same loss of revenue.
Stephen Ellis, who chairs the copyright committee of the Canadian Film and Broadcast Television Association, dryly referred to the music industry as on the "bleeding edge" of the file-sharing revolution. Because a digital music file is much smaller than a movie or television show, it is much easier to distribute online.
But technology has quickly caught up and new laws are required so that Canadians pay for the entertainment they enjoy, Mr. Ellis said.
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