Canada to overhaul copyright laws for digital age

Thu Jun 12, 2008 2:35pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - 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 continue to exempt Internet service providers from liability for copyright violations by their subscribers, requiring them only to pass on notices of violations rather than to take down offending material as required in the United States.

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 new 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 personal infringements.

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 digital locks.

"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."   Continued...

<p>The upgraded Apple iPod Classic is seen during it unveiling in San Francisco, California September 5, 2007. Canadians would be allowed to copy legally acquired music on to their iPods and computers but would be banned from getting around any digital locks that industry may apply, under legislation introduced on Thursday.REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>