U.S.-style piracy law floated in Canada

Actors, screenwriters, musicians back legislation

TORONTO -- Canadian actors, screenwriters and musicians eyeing lost revenue from content piracy have backed U.S.-style copyright legislation due shortly from the federal government in Ottawa.

The Creators Copyright Coalition, an umbrella group of Canadian content creators, called on Ottawa to ratify the WIPO Internet treaties, introduce "strong penalties" against content piracy and not expand "fair dealing" use of digital content by educational and media institutions.

The CCC coalition includes ACTRA, Canada's actors union, the Writers Guild of Canada, and SOCAN, which collects royalties for domestic musicians.

Their demands came as Ottawa gets set to impose anti-circumvention measures and an anti-consumer crackdown on fair dealing and open licensing as early as June as part of the latest attempt by the feds to update Canada's copyright laws for a digital age.

Earlier attempts by Ottawa to reform Canadian copyright rules stopped short of mirroring the U.S. Digital Millenium Copyright Act by introducing draconian anti-circumvention measures and making Internet service providers liable for piracy.

The last attempt at copyright reform in 2008, Bill C-61, which did include a proposal for digital locks, failed to pass through the House of Commons when the governing Conservatives prorogued Parliament.

Hollywood studios in 2007 succeeded in forcing Ottawa to pass anti-camcording legislation to help stamp out movie piracy here.

But Ottawa has frustrated Washington by consistently striking a balance between the rights of content creators and consumers to encourage industry innovation.

That included rejection by Canada of a notice and takedown regime that requires ISPs to remove infringing content identified by rights-holders.

But Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, on his blog reported the federal cabinet in Ottawa is about to bow to Hollywood and introduce "the most anti-consumer copyright bill in Canadian history" with U.S.-style copyright law amendments in its latest copyright bill.

"The detailed provisions will be negotiated over the coming weeks by the respective departments, but they now have their marching orders of completing a bill that will satisfy the U.S. that comes complete with tough anti-circumvention rules and no flexible fair dealing provision," Geist wrote.