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."
The Canadian Consumer Initiative includes four major Canadian consumer organizations: the Consumers Council of Canada, Option consommateurs, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Union des consommateurs.
The Consumers Council of Canada commends the federal government and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for moving ahead to create a national securities regulator.
“Canada has long needed a national securities regulator to provide consistent, nation-wide protection for investors and consumers of financial services,” said Don Mercer, President of the Consumers Council of Canada. “Both costs and fraud can be reduced by having one regulator. This is significant for retail investors.”
The Consumers Council has long been concerned about the duplicative costs being born by consumers as a result of the current structure of securities regulation.
“Retail financial services products today are reviewed over and over, too often just for form’s sake,” said Mercer, who noted the flipside of this is that when this does not happen consumers must adapt to new rules every time they change province of residence.
Mercer said the Council welcomes the federal government’s action to release draft legislation that can be evaluated for constitutionality by the courts. The proposal to establish an Investor Advisory Panel as part of that legislation is an important feature for retail investors.
“This is a first and significant step in what has been a long process to improve investor protection in Canada,” Mercer added. “We embrace the government getting on with this.”
Don Mercer was named President of the Consumers Council of Canada at its annual meeting, and the Council's board of directors was elected.
Immediate Past President Bill Huzar continues to serve consumers as President of the Consumers Council of Canada Foundation.
Mercer retired in April 2007 after a long career in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver with Competition Bureau Canada. Following his appointment as head of the Competition Bureaus Ontario Region in October 2000 and subsequently as head of Pacific Region (BC and the Yukon), he was an active member of the Consumers Council of Canada's initial (now Central Ontario) Advisory Committee.