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.”
However, a broad coalition of Canadian entertainment industry organizations — representing 21,000 professional performers, 15,000 musicians, as well as the music industry — applauded the new legislation.
The bill would reduce Canadians’ individual liability to C$500 ($490) from a maximum of C$20,000 for making illegal copies of music or movies for private use.
Penalties up to C$20,000 per infringement would 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.
The bill would also make it illegal to provide, sell or import the hacking tools used to circumvent digital locks.
Prentice was unable to say how the government would monitor whether people had built up personal libraries of recordings from television.
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