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New copyright bill engages student issues, digital media

Jennifer Squires
News Writer

A new law could soon change the way copyrighted materials are used.

Bill C-32, also known as the Copyright Modernization Act, is the brainchild of Industry Minister Tony Clement and Heritage Minister James Moore and was created after many cross-country consultations with citizens. The purpose of the bill is to update the current Copyright Act to make sure Canada keeps up with the digital age. The bill was first introduced in June 2010 but was tabled.

The Copyright Modernization Act is the third attempt to update Canada's copyright laws. Bill C-60 was tabled and dissolved in 2005, and Bill C-61 died when Parliament was prorogued. This new bill will change how many university students go about their education.

The bill allows for format and shifting, making it legal to rip a CD to put on your iPod or record a TV show to watch at a later time. In what is being dubbed the “YouTube exception,” there is a clause that will allow Canadians the right to remix user-generated content for non-commercial purposes.

The biggest change university students will see is in what the bill calls “fair dealings.” Fair dealings are things that are exempt from copyright violations. The Act adds parody, satire, and education into the fair dealings category. This means that educators will now lawfully be able to reproduce, by any means, copyrighted materials for educational purposes.

Under current copyright laws, educational reproduction of material is limited to outdated technology like overhead projectors and dry-erase boards. Bill C-32 seeks to allow the use of modern technology in the classroom.

The most criticized portion of the bill are the provisions regarding digital locks. The digital locks clause is essentially the trump card of the Copyright Modernization Act.  Bill C-32 makes it illegal to crack any sort of digital lock placed on a device, disc or file. This clause would trump, for example, the format shifting clause if you purchased a CD with copy protection on it.

Another clause states that producers of media would be allowed to place digital locks on their material that would, for example, have a DVR delete a recorded TV show within a prescribed number of days.

Purchasing any sort of digital lock cracking device is illegal under the bill, and violation of the clauses comes with a hefty fine. Individuals who are found violating the law could have to pay penalties between $100 and $5,000 per offence.

However, the NDP’s copyright critic Charlie Angus proposed in a private member’s bill that additional taxes be placed on digital gadgets, an extension of the already existing private copying levy. The purpose of this is to compensate copyright holders for the copies being made on blank CD’s, etc. Angus’ point is that an extension to digital devices like laptops and iPods could make copying legal because copyright holders would get a share of the money from the tax.

The House of Commons heard the bill Tuesday, November 2, and was expected to pass it to the next stage wherein the legislative committee would discuss amendments. However, if the bill is passed, nothing new could be added to it, amendments made can only address the language currently existing in the bill.

Courtney Bell, a second year theatre major, believes that the bill will work out in our favour. “I think it’s great that we’ll be able to reproduce media and add it to our projects, and that our profs will be able to use music and videos without the rights. Things like this can really make the content in class interesting and maybe that means some of us will stay off Facebook in class and pay attention.”

The Archer Library has set up a webpage to help with information about copyright to provide guidance to students and faculty.

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