Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Quill & Quire staff, "Talking copyright," Quillblog, June 14, 2008.

Expect Bill C-61, the proposed amendment to the Canadian Copyright Act, to be a big conversation topic at this year’s show. The bill was tabled on Thursday, and groups like the Association of Canadian Publishers and the Writers’ Union of Canada immediately set about wading through its various provisos. In the meantime, see news coverage here and here.

Most of the discussion, predictably, has focused on digital music and video, since that’s where most digital use falls. But at Friday’s “Another Country” BookExpo Canada conference, copyright lawyer Grace Westcott broke down for the audience what the bill could mean for books. The bill allows individuals to make one digital copy of a book or magazine for another device, for private use only. There are a number of caveats: the person copying the file must own the original and must have acquired it legally; no rights management blocks can be circumvented; the copy cannot be given away; and if the original is given away, the digital copies must be destroyed.

As has been widely reported, the bill also sets a maximum penalty of $500 per action for personal illegal downloading, though the penalty for uploading, and for downloading by breaking through a digital lock, can be up to $20,000.

Creators’ groups are, not surprisingly, pleased that the long-delayed legislation has been tabled. “We should welcome this bill,” said Westcott. “It has something for everyone.” Canadian copyright guru and users’ rights advocate Michael Geist disagrees, but that’s no surprise, either. Also dissenting was another Friday panelist, writer and consultant Ben Vershbow; he told an afternoon seminar audience that the bill appears to represent “an economic model that can only be sustained through surveillance” and is “clearly out of touch with the way media works now.”

Even supporters concede that the bill’s effectiveness is debatable. Said Westcott: “It’s a valiant attempt to keep these copies contained – and it’s virtually impossible to enforce.”
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