The C-32 bill before parliament this session is a reboot of the failed C-61 bill we saw die after Parliament’s dissolution in 2008. While the bill has come a small way to providing a fairer balance between industry and consumer interest there is a glaring flaw in the digital locks provision that nullifies many of these balances.
The Bill makes it illegal to break a digital lock, period, regardless of who you are or what you are doing. You may ask, “But picking locks is wrong, of course it should be illegal?”. That type of knee-jerk mental reaction is off base and wrong, here’s why.
C-32 allows for individuals to copy and transfer copyrighted contents for private use, which means you’re going to be able copy that song you bought online to a CD or your ipod or whatever new fangled device you buy in the future. You bought the song you’re allowed to copy it for your own use. UNLESS, the company you bought it from puts a digital lock on it. See you still have the right to copy it, but in order to be able to copy it you need to break that digital lock first, the breaking of the lock is illegal even though why your breaking it is not.
Another example would be a librarian or educator, C-32 makes specific provisions in the bill for these professions to use copyrighted material, to store, copy and remix it for educational purposes. However if you’re trying to access or remix a video for a project in a Digital Arts class, or catalog and archive a digital work that’s fallen out of copyright you are stopped if the provider used a digital lock. While again these uses are perfectly legal and right, you can not exercise that right b/c of the digital lock, no matter what your purpose the act of breaking of that lock is illegal.
Finally, just a few years ago the NBA.com spent a few years selling downloadable versions of it’s games that were digitally locked. Every time you copied your legal purchase to another computer or had to reinstall Windows your digital lock had to be re-verified by an NBA.com server. This system was eventually replaced with newer technology and the lock verifier was removed. Users who had bought videos, paid money for the right to have them on their computer and to watch them as many times were suddenly unable to. Without the server they could not copy the videos to a new computer when their old one died, they could not watch them after they got a virus and had to reinstall windows, b/c the lock was broken and stuck in the locked position they could not enjoy what they had bought. Under the old law users effected by this in Canada found and shared ways on the NBA forums to remove the digital locks, this was legal b/c the act of breaking the lock was not illegal, and they had to legal rights to the content behind the lock.
I’ll cut my examples short at that, but you can be sure I have at least three more good ones just off the top of my head.
The main problem with C-32 is this digital locks provision. We need to look to the physical/real world for our guidance here. It’s not breaking the lock that should be illegal it’s whether you broke that lock for an illegal purpose. I speak from experience, as a Network Specialist I personally break digital locks all the time, I do so with a high ethical standard and for the purpose of giving access to owners who locked themselves out of their own computers or networks. Even having these tools in my bag would become illegal under this bill, I’m a professional and I wont’ even be able to do my job without breaking a ridiculous provision in C-32.
If you put your CD collection in a box and locked it you would be perfectly fine to break that lock when you lost the key. So why would you want a law that made the digital equivalent illegal.
Keith Page, Nelson BC