The Consumers Council of Canada in conjunction with the Canadian Consumer Initiative has cautioned consumers that the Government of Canada’s proposed Copyright Modernization Act, Bill C-32, permits existing and new consumer use rights such as backing up content, time- and format-shifting to be taken away by digital locks and license agreements.
Bill C-32 creates a prohibition on removing or circumventing “technical protection measures” (TPMs) such as those copying and regional restrictions commonly found on DVD discs. Consumers cannot legally remove or circumvent TPMs even if the consumer’s use is otherwise protected in the bill, such as for creating a backup copy of a DVD in case of scratching, theft, fire or other reason.
“Without an exception to technical protection measures to exercise their copying and backup rights, this Bill is a dead letter for consumers” contended John Lawford, Counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
Geneviève Reed, Head of Consumer Representation and Research at Option consommateurs concurred: “Media companies will very likely add TPMs which restrict those rights, just as they now do for DVDs. Since consumers are violating the law if they break the TPMs for otherwise lawful uses, there will be confusion and a whole army of consumer copyright criminals created virtually overnight.”
CCI notes that Bill C-32 has positive features for consumers that, absent TPMs, allow consumers to back up music and videos, to time-shift TV programs with PVRs, and to format-shift music from CDs and legal downloads to MP3 players, as well as some innovative rights that reflect how consumers actually use content, such as fair use exceptions for
parody and satire, and a “remix” right for private media creations such as using commercial songs over family slide shows or amateur YouTube videos.
“Unfortunately, these promising consumer rights all are subject to the overriding control of the media companies that put the digital locks on content” said Anthony Hémond, Telecommunications, Broadcasting, Internet and Privacy Analyst at Union des consommateurs, “As a result, consumers most likely will be paying more for entertainment products, as media companies can effectively dictate when, where and how consumers use their content.”
“The legislation’s protection of digital locks will be detrimental to Canadian consumers and eliminate many of their rights with respect to copyright. It opens the door to the loss by consumers of the kind of durable lifetime access to purchased content traditionally associated with books, for example” noted Don Mercer, President of the Consumers Council of Canada. “It could make the transfer of access to content to inheritors more difficult and less likely. Consumers’ ability to unlock the content they purchased is not overtly protected in the legislation.”