Copyright bill strikes discordant note with Canadian musicians, consumer groups
Canadian artists have added their voices to the protests against Bill C-61, the controversial proposed amendment to the Copyright Act that some say mirrors a harsh "locks and lawsuits" American-style approach to copyright.

June 19, 2008
by Nestor E. Arellano

Canadian artists as well as other consumers will be singing the blues, while big businesses reap mega profits if Bill C-61 the proposed amendment to the Copyright Act is passed into law, say local musicians and consumer rights advocates.

The bill, which was tabled before Parliament late last week by Industry Minister Jim Prentice, is half-baked and ignores existing market realities and the interests of digital media consumers, according to the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.

"This bill looks to the past, not the future," said Philippa Lawson, director of the Ottawa-based public rights watchdog.

Local artists have also expressed concern over the development.

"As we feared, this bill represents an American-style approach to copyright. It's all locks and lawsuits," says Safwan Javed, drummer for Wide Mouth Mason, a three-man blues rock band from Saskatchewan.

"Suing fans won't make it 1992 again. It's a new world for the music business and this is an old approach," said Javed, also a member of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition (CMCC).

CMCC is an alliance of nearly 200 Canadian acts which includes performers such as Sam Roberts, Our Lady Peace, Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne.

According to CIPPIC and the broad coalition of artistes and consumer rights groups, Bill C-61 mirrors the controversial U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The Act was used by major record labels to file massive lawsuits against people who downloaded music without their permission.

The coalition still has to officially hear back from the government on a white paper it recently delivered, according to John Lawford, research analyst and lawyer with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa.

He said release of the Bill was premature because Prentice had failed to consult with consumers who will bear the brunt of the proposed law.

The Copyright Act of Canada was last updated in 1997, some four years before the MP3 players were introduced.

Bill C-61 would make Canadians liable for a $500 fine if they are caught downloading without producers' permission copies of music and movies online. But judges can still award other penalties.

Current laws allow for a maximum fine of $20,000 for each instance of copyright infringement, whether downloading or uploading.

Similarly, the bill makes it illegal for individuals to tamper with digital rights management tools (DRMs) or digital locks that manufacturers embed on devices and media to prevent copying of content or unauthorized use of gadget.

Prentice maintains that the bill is a "unique made-in-Canada approach to copyright reform" and said it balances the rights of creators and consumers.

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