One of the most hotly debated topics in today’s digital world is that of Copyrights. Most predominantly in the music and film industries, but the excess of technology has allowed and continues to allow for a faster, easier and more decentralized system of content delivery. Today this topic is being pursued in court rooms and offices in just about every nation.
Canadian readers might be surprised to learn that we do not use a system of Fair Use, but another called Fair Dealing. Fair dealing is typically a defense to a copyright infringement, and can only be used when infringement is established. Unlike the American law of Fair Use which allows and states the terms in which a copyrighted material can be used, fair dealing is entrenched in case law and the equitable use of a work is derived from those laws.
Both terms however allow for the same basic principles of; private study, research, criticism, review and newspaper summary. While this article is not intended to examine the integral components of case law it does help to understand the basis of the current problems facing the public and copyrights. Also it is important to note in the mostly American media dominated Canada, we do deal with the issue slightly differently.
So what is the issue? The issue now facing technology users is the introduction of Bill C-60. Which restricts the use of copyrighted works by end users and provides more means to owners to act against actual and even perceived infringment.
While the law creates and helps protect copyright owners and their representatives it is heavy handed when it comes to users. One of the problems with the Canadian proposal has to do with content control. In the case of a music CD, if that CD has some form copy protection in it then it would become potentially illegal to make a copy of that CD. Even if that copy falls clearly in the realm of fair dealing. The idea that I can’t copy a CD that I have legally purchased disturbs me. It seems that the intent of fair dealing is lost in this new bill. Another example of the far reaching and reactionary stakes in this bill are the provisions of caching of a website. This could have serious effects on a site like google who, under Canadian law, would not be able to store local copies of websites it has indexed.
These are just two of the issues being faced by this bill. Michael Geist is a law professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in Internet and E-Commerce law topics. He also holds the Canadian Research Chair for Internet and E-Commerce law. Mr. Geist has posted a number or articles on Bill C-60 over the past month, and I encourage you to read his analysis for further information on exactly what Bill C-60 contains.
The issues of most concern to the public is the restriction of rights from a purchase based system to a license system. You have no longer purchased the CD, but licensed the rights to listen to it. I should be able to make a MP3 copy of Coldplay’s latest CD for my iPod with out infringing on their copy rights, I did after all purchase the disk, and supported the band. Making a personal copy of it has always fallen in the realm of acceptable use, but since that disk contains copy protection I have to use special software to generate the MP3 files necessary to get the songs on my iPod. The industry whom has lobbied long and hard for this bill thinks they have an answer to that problem, I’ll just have to repurchase the songs in digital – in this case MP3 – format. Do you have to repurchase your car in order to buy fuel from different gas station? The suggestion you would is insane, as it should be.
As a legitimate buyer of a CD, DVD or other work, you should maintain rights to enjoy that product in what ever manner you wish as long as it stays in the realm of fair and acceptable use. I use the music industry in my example of what is currently happening out there, but it also applies to DVD’s, E-Books and software. Anywhere a computer, or technological device comes in to contact with “intellectual property” this is becoming more and more important. What is next? When and where I can watch my favorite movie? Or how many times? Copyright’s are not absolute!