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bill c-61 and fair copyright for canada.

With Industry Minister Jim Prentice‘s introduction of Bill C-61: An Act to Amend the Copyright Act into the House of Commons this week, I am glad to see that strong opposition to legislation (which is similar to the United States Millennium Digital Copyright Act) is coalescing across Canada.

Not only does Bill C-61 seem to side with industry lobbyists over consumer protection rights, but it also poses a very real threat that could leave Canada with one of the most restrictive digital copyright laws in the world – posing a strong challenge for innovation, consumer rights, and free speech.

It has been suggested that this type of legislation would allow border guards and law enforcement officials to inspect laptops and iPods for music and videos that may violate copyright laws (which could even include the simple and very common transfer of DVDs to an iPod) and instituting stiff penalties, C-61 also poses a number of challenges to the education sector (which should raise red flags for University Presidents and Provincial Education Ministers across Canada).

The proposed legislation would limit the ability of post-secondary students and institutions to access copyrighted material for studies – including highly popular online exam banks and journal/periodical databases/e-braries that many post-secondary students use on a daily basis (the proposed legislation would limit the distribution of electronic library materials to less than five days) and could see an increase in copyright fees for institutions. I was glad to see that the Canadian Federation of Students has publicly raised questions about Bill C-61 and I hope that Canada’s other national student lobby group – the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations – won’t be too far behind in taking public action on this important issue.

I encourage you to read up on why this issue is important to Canadians. Check out Michael Geist, Digital Copyright Canada, Fair Copyright for Canada (and on Facebook), and Online Rights Canada to get up to speed. There’s a lot of good and accessible information online, so make sure to give it a read.

I’ve written a letter on the issue to my MP Rahim Jaffer, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Jim Prentice, Heritage Minister Josée Verner, and Industry Committee Chair James Rajotte. If you’re not a fan of letter writing use a sample letter, or check out Geist’s solid list of actions that any Canadian can take to raise their concerns about Bill C-61 and copyright issues.

Positive copyright reform is possible, but Bill C-61 does not include the ingredients of positive change that would recognize the growing role of the Internet and open source software, as well as emerging online tools and business models that Canadian are embracing.

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