OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians will be allowed to copy legally acquired music to their iPods and computers but barred from getting around digital locks, according to draft copyright legislation unveiled on Wednesday.
The bill is intended to modernize copyright laws that were last updated in 1997.
“Simply put, our law governing copyright has not kept pace with the breakneck speed at which digital technologies are moving,” Industry Minister Tony Clement told a televised news conference in Montreal.
Ottawa said the bill would give copyright owners stronger legal tools to go after online pirate sites. Creators of content would have the right to prevent someone else from posting their work online without permission.
Clement said the music industry did not want to pursue ordinary fans but rather “the big bad guys ... people that put online millions of songs or millions of files or millions of movies.”
There are no guarantees that all the proposed changes will become law since the minority Conservative government does not control the House of Commons and needs the support of opposition legislators.
The bill would also cut the penalties that companies could seek for most private infringement of copyrights. Statutory damages would be reduced to a one-time payment of between C$100 ($96) and C$5,000, compared with the maximum current punishment of C$20,000 for a single offense.
Clement said the government was “legitimizing everyday behavior of Canadians, such as recording TV shows on PVRs and uploading legally purchased songs to MP3 players”.
The bill would require Internet service providers to take part in a so-called “notice and notice” regime, obliging them to warn subscribers who were allegedly breaking the law by posting banned material.
University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, one of Canada’s leading copyright experts, criticized the bill for putting too much emphasis on digital locks.
“Any time a digital lock is used — whether on books, movies, music, or electronic devices — the lock trumps virtually all other rights,” he wrote on his blog.
“In the battle between two sets of property rights — those of the intellectual property rights holder and those of the consumer who has purchased the tangible or intangible property — the IP rights holder always wins,” he said.
Clement said digital locks were needed to protect producers of software and video games as well as movie distributors.
The left-leaning opposition New Democrats said the bill was designed to appease large corporate rights holders.
“Under this bill, the only rights you will have as a consumer are the rights the U.S. corporate lobby gives you,” legislator Charlie Angus said in a statement.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway