Tories defend digital locks in new copyright bill
4:42 PM, E.T. | September 29, 2011Canadian
The federal government defended itself Thursday against criticism that it was caving in to U.S. pressure by backing the right of owners of copyright on digital products to put locks on their works.
"The idea that we should not, as was suggested ... have digital locks is something that is ridiculous," Heritage Minister James Moore said after the government introduced copyright legislation.
Digital locks are built into products as diverse as PlayStations, DVDs and digital books to prevent unauthorized tampering or copying.
Washington has relayed pressure from the U.S. movie, software and entertainment industries for Canada to update its copyright rules by, among other things, giving legal protection to digital locks.
The digital lock provisions are the most controversial features of the copyright bill, which received broad backing from video game developers and others in the industry but criticism from consumer groups and some education groups.
Moore, a tech-savvy 35-year-old, said it was possible the legislation could be amended when a special committee goes through it clause by clause, but he said the rules were necessary to stop theft of intellectual property.
"If somebody hacks into a piece of software, gets around a digital lock, takes that piece of software and manipulates it or puts it on line, or gives it to their friends, or throws it up on Bit Torrent, and destroys a business model -- that's a problem," Moore told a news conference.
The Entertainment Software Association of Canada estimates there are 1.5 million to 2 million illegal downloads of games in Canada every year.
"We want to make sure that we (Canada) do not become -- and to a limited extent we have been -- a piracy haven," the association's policy director, Jason Kee, told Reuters.
Moore also said digital lock protection is required under World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties that Canada has signed but not yet ratified.
But University of Ottawa copyright expert Michael Geist said the digital locks part of the bill could be nicknamed the Reduce U.S. Pressure Copyright Act.
He said the legislation goes beyond what WIPO requires and in one aspect is even stricter than U.S. rules in regard to the use of films in educational contexts. He said Italy permits circumvention of locks for private copying, and other countries allow circumvention in cases where there is an actual right to copy a work.
"So why is Canada sticking to digital lock rules when a more balanced approach that is consistent with the WIPO Internet treaties is readily available?" Geist asked in a blog posting.
"The answer is obvious - the digital lock rules are primarily about satisfying U.S. pressure, not Canadian public opinion."
Moore, seeking to deflect criticism that the legislation was too close to U.S. law, said Washington is unhappy that the bill has no requirement that Internet service providers take down or block material that infringes copyright