Canada Mulls Copyright Reform

Though, on the legal front, this blog mainly focuses on American law, it’s worth noting that on June 20, 2005 the Canadian House of Commons began reading a proposed bill that many have already started calling the “Canadian DMCA”.

The American DMCA, which was passed in 1998, was billed as a clarification of existing copyright law for the digital age. However, the law wound up giving sweeping new powers to the music and movie industries while offering little to both small copyright holders and end users. From what I can gather, the Canadian law offers much of the same.

If you want to see for yourself, here’s an FAQ and a backgrounder for the proposed bill.

Even though it shares many of the political misgivings of its USA counterpart, it does have one major difference as it pertains to dealing with online plagiarism, namely the roles and responsiblities ISPs have in them.

In the American DMCA, a notice-and-takedown system is used. In it, upon receiving proper notification of infringing works on service provider, the host must take the work down or block access to it. Only after the notice is filed can a counter notice be issued and work replaced.

In the Canadian version, a notice-and-notice system is used. A copyright holder files a notice with the service provider and the provider, in turn, must pass along the notice to their user. They have no obligation to block or remove works alleged to be infringing, but do have to keep information to identify the user in the case legal action should result. However, they are under no obligation to release that information without a court order.

This might seem like a bum deal for copyright holders, especially small ones that can’t afford legal action, but it’s potentially a win-win for both sides. The notice-and-takedown provision of the American DMCA has been heavily abused and has pushed hosts to adopt very strong notification policies requiring complicated submissions and a great deal of legalese. For more information on that, you can visit the Host Report.

Since nearly all Canadian hosts have terms of service that forbid copyright infirngement, this could actually encourage the cooperation that has been ongoing for some time. In my experiences, I’ve never had any serious trouble with Canadian hosts. American hosts have actually been more problematic.

The only fear is that hosts, after being relieved of legal responsibility, might refuse to take any action beyond the letter of the law, even in clear incidents of plagiarism. However, I don’t see that as likely.

Nonetheless, I’ll definitely be watching this law as it goes through and, should it pass, be monitoring how it effects the responsiveness of Canadian hosts. It’ll be very interesting to say the least.

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