Bill C-11 Threatens Canadian Digital Consumers

– Kyle W. Brown, Editor-In-Chief

Despite the recent defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the United States, its sister bill is creeping its way through the Canadian House of Commons.

Bill C-11, better known as the Copyright Act, is a federal bill that would change the way that consumers can interact with digital media.

One of the main provisions of the bill surrounds digital locks, which could restrict a customers access to DVDs, CDs and e-books.

The bill is being lobbied by companies associated with the entertainment industry, which has drawn numerous critics who argue the federal government is playing to appease corporations rather than citizens.

While those in the music industry claim that digital locks are necessary for the economic stability of the industry, Michael Geist has spoken out against the validity of these claims.

Geist, a law professor and chair of Canada Research in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, has been rallying against the bill through his blog since it came back in front of Parliament.

He argues that Canada is one of the leaders in music sales, ranking sixth in the world in digital music sales.

Essentially, digital locks are a tool which prevent consumers from using purchased media across different forums.

For example, someone buying an e-book for an e-reader would be limited to using solely that e-reader to read it. Digital locks would prevent the consumer from shifting that content onto a computer or different e-reader, and Bill C-11 would actually make doing so a criminal offence.

The same situation applies to transferring downloaded music from a computer to a MP3 player.

Marc Laferriere, the federal NDP candidate for Brant in the 2011 election, spoke out about this exploitation of consumers.

“Anytime we update our platform device, we’re looking at having to buy content again,” Laferriere said. “I don’t think that’s the interconnectivity, or the multi-use way that technology should be going. I think that if I buy something on my iPad, I want it to play on my computer, I want it to play on my TV, and if I update my iPad to an iZad or whatever is the next reiteration, having to buy Ghostbusters 2 seven times is not my ideal way of going through life as a consumer.”

In terms of its potential impact on students, the same ideas of having to repurchase items continues.

For example, Laferriere acknowledges that university textbooks, which are quickly becoming digital, would essentially have to be “burned,” or deleted, following completion of the course. Students would no longer be able to go back and access those books for later courses, or once they are professionals, without repurchasing the content.

Laferriere notes that this bill will end up having the opposite effect of what the big corporations think, in that piracy will simply advance.

“You’re basically serving to piss a lot of consumers off, and leading them towards more piracy because they don’t want to have to pay for things again and again for things they already own, so they’re going to go towards more open source systems,” Laferriere said. “It boggles the mind because what these big industry lobbyists think is going to happen, isn’t what’s going to happen. Even if the laws go through, they are actually going to increase piracy. [The laws] will increase the penalties and the likelihood of you getting caught, but it won’t actually help piracy in and of itself.”

This is the fourth time that the Conservative government has presented this bill to Parliament, the first time dating back to 2008 where it faced stark opposition.

The second reading debate of the bill in the House closed Friday, which was followed by a day of protest from opponents on Saturday.

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