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New copyright legislation likely this Thursday

According to a Canadian Press report, Industry Minister Tony Clement is likely to table long-awaited legislation amending Canada’s Copyright Act this Thursday. The legislation apparently includes a revised definition of “fair dealing” that would make it easier for academics to employ primary-source material in their work without running afoul of the Act, and will make it a crime to circumvent copy protection on DVDs and CDs.

Sources have said the legislation will make it a crime to pick a digital lock attached to a piece of music, film, electronic game, or other product. For example, overriding the copyright code on a song to burn it to a CD would violate the Act. Format shifting, moving digital material around from say, a CD to an iPod, or burning from a PVR to a DVD, will be considered legal for personal use as long as no digital lock is picked.

That doesn’t sit well with many vocal proponents of user rights, who say big entertainment multinationals will be given too much sway over what Canadians do in their own homes, with their personal property. When the Conservatives last tried to introduce changes two years ago, a massive online campaign erupted to oppose it and they were forced back to the drawing board, striking cross-country consultations and going back and forth within cabinet.

Perhaps in a pre-emptive move to counter exactly this kind of criticism, Clement is reaching out to opposition MPs to support the bill, and suggesting that he is open to amendments:

I’m not coming down from the mountain with this chiselled in stone, Clement said.

This bill may have elements in it where we could seek some consensus and there could be some positive amendments to this bill. That’s certainly in the realm of possibility too, and let the process begin.

Clement stated that the legislation will attempt to balance the interests of content creators and users, but acknowledged the many competing concerns, would make it virtually impossible to please everyone.

That’s why this bill is going to be thoroughly discussed and debated…. I would just urge people to wait for the bill and read the bill, and they can make up their own minds.