In the coming weeks, the federal government will make its fourth attempt in six years to reform copyright law for the digital age, having recently introduced Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, also known as the Copyright Modernization Act. (The last copyright amendments happened in 1997, long, long before copyright piracy entered the mainstream.) However, it is only the third attempt since the Conservative Party has been in power. Will this be their lucky time? The current bill is essentially the same as the previous effort, Bill C-32, which was thwarted after its second reading when the government fell earlier this year on a non-confidence motion. The newly elected government promised to reintroduce the amendments and pass them in short order, and here we are.
The Copyright Modernization Act would make significant changes to the way we use and interact with copyrighted content. For one thing, it would explicitly legalize much of users’ already common behaviour, but place strict limits on that behaviour. For example, the law would give users the rights to:
- Copy content between devices, e.g., from a compact disc to a computer or a portable music player, and to make backup copies, unless restricted by a digital lock.
- Record broadcasts from television, radio and the Internet to enjoy at a later time on the device of the user’s choice. Users would not be allowed to record “on-demand” content (e.g., streaming video or radio) or content protected by digital locks. Moreover, users could not record content to use for commercial purposes, e.g., to rebroadcast for profit.
- Use copyrighted materials for the purposes of education, satire or parody. This is commonly called “fair use”.
- Use a publicly available copyrighted work to create a new work, provided that the user doesn’t profit from the new work, that the new work doesn’t have an adverse effect on the original copyright holder’s ability to profit from the original work, and that the new work doesn’t damage the original copyright holder’s reputation. This provision would allow musical artists, for example, to sample other artists’ music in their new works, but not to sell those new songs.
- Make copies of copyrighted class materials transmitted electronically to use during a course in which the user is enrolled. The law would require teachers and students to destroy all digital copies of course materials within 30 days of the completion of the course.
The government’s website dedicated to the copyright modernization efforts is BalancedCopyright.gc.ca. But despite the name, you’re not going to find balanced coverage there. I recommend law professor and copyright expert Michael Geist’s blog for a critical look at the proposed amendments, as well as constructive alternative suggestions. You can read my assessment of Bill C-11 on HRinfodesk.com (subscription required).
Let us know how copyright affects your business, and how the new law would change the way you operate.
First Reference Internal Controls, Human Resources and Compliance Editor