Aug 20, 2008, 09:31AM

Canadian Digital Rights Under Attack From The South

Canada, long the target of whimsied gazes from American liberals, has more than just socialized health care to tingle a progressive kid's jollies. In Canada peer-to-peer downloading and file sharing has always been legal, but maybe not for long. Backed by American media companies the conservative party is pushing legislation that will align Canadian digital rights laws with those south of the border.

The introduction of new legislation regarding copyright should not come as a surprise to any informed Canadian. After all, ours is the country where peer-to-peer downloading is currently legal. Yet the recently released details of Industry Minister Jim Prentice’s Bill C-61 are a shock to many.

The bill describes explicitly what consumers can and cannot do. You can record a television program for later viewing, provided that you delete it as soon as you see it. Transferring music to your iPod is allowed, but you can only make one copy per device and keep the original. Copying DVDs is almost certainly prohibited. Media technology has progressed at such a rapid pace, Canadian law can barely keep up—making clear what is and isn’t allowed under the law is a welcome development.

But what the bill giveth, it also taketh away. It allows for an undeniably harsh 500-dollar penalty for peer-to-peer downloading, and an even more ridiculous maximum of 20,000 dollars for illegally sharing content. Illegal sharing includes actions as benign as posting copyrighted material on YouTube, or sharing MP3s on Limewire.

Simply put, consumer’s rights are firmly in the hands of media companies.

Accusations that the bill was ‘made in the US’ are well- founded. Pressure over the past few years from prominent American political figures, ranging from California governator Arnold Schwarzenegger to US ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, made it clear that American movie studios and record labels have had a hand in Canada’s recent attempts at copyright reform.


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