My latest Guardian column, “Canada’s copyright laws show Britain’s digital legislation is no exception,” explores the comparative histories of the awful UK Digital Economy Bill (rammed through Parliament with no real debate using dirty procedural tricks) and Canada’s new Bill C-32, a proposed law that ignores the thousands of Canadians who weighed in on the government’s copyright consultation, creating a prohibition on breaking “digital locks,” even when no copyright infringement takes place.
Only 46 of the 8,306 commenters thought otherwise. These 46 commenters advocated replicating America’s failed experiment in Canada; everyone else thought the idea was daft. You’d think that with numbers like 46:8260, the government would go with the majority, right? Wrong.
When minister of industry Tony Clement, and minister of heritage James Moore, published the text of their long-awaited copyright bill, Canadians were floored to discover that the ministers had replicated the American approach to digital locks. Actually, they made it worse – the Americans conduct triennial hearings on proposed exemptions to the rule; Moore and Clement didn’t bother with even this tiny safeguard.
The ministers have been incapable of explaining the discrepancy. When confronted on it, they inevitably point to the fact that their bill also establishes numerous “user rights” for everyday Canadians (for example, the right to record a TV show in order to watch it later), and suggest that this is the “balance” that Canadians asked for. When critics say, “Yes, you’ve created some user rights, but if a digital lock prevents their exercise, it’s against the law to break the lock, right?” the ministers squirm and change the subject.