TORONTO, Canada - New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Charlie Angus is trying to clear up misunderstandings about Canada's new copyright bill, which has many similarities to the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
In an open letter to Industry Minister Jim Prentice, Angus argued that Canada can sanction a key World Intellectual Property Organization treaty without ratifying tyrannical digital rights management legislation.
"Parliament must also stay away from the more hysterical claims that we need to start banning circumvention devices," Angus wrote. "This is like saying we need to ban axes because they could be used to break down a door."
For several months, there have been rumors about a new copyright bill being prepared by Prentice, though the text was never formally introduced. Parliament yanked the bill from its agenda late in 2007 after many people revolted against several proposals that were leaked.
Critics of the bill declared it a "Canadian DMCA," while proponents claimed the bill was a necessity because of significant World Intellectual Property Organization treaties Canada signed but never passed in the 1990s.
ARS Technica previously reported that signing the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties does not bind a country to ratifying them. The treaties allow for discretion on key areas like digital rights management, ARS Technica reported.
While the United States and like-minded countries are known for employing "maximalist" approaches to issues outlawing circumvention and circumvention devices, other countries that have passed the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties are more flexible on digital rights management circumvention in certain legal situations.
"Minister Jim Prentice needs to come clean with the Canadian public over the fact that restrictive, U.S.-style DMCA legislation is not synonymous with ratifying the WIPO treaty," Angus said. "Under international trade obligations, Canada could ratify WIPO and still maintain a wide variety of choices of how to go about setting up appropriate copyright legislation for the 21st century."
Angus, citing the Sony BMG rootkit incident, said digital rights management has "already shown its dark side."
"I see no reason to give content owners a blank check to use code to enforce content restrictions," he said.
Angus also said helpful technologies such as peer-to-peer networks shouldn't be arbitrarily eliminated by regulation.
"Parliamentarians must grapple with such attempts to use the fight against piracy as a digital Trojan horse that radically alters the very notion of copyright itself," he said. "It would be terrible public policy to proscribe the development of new technologies for disseminating information."
Angus also criticized the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
"Even more ironic is the fact that the architect of the DMCA, Bruce Lehman, is now an outspoken advocate against this legislation," he said. "I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Lehman at a conference in Montreal. He explained how the U.S. thought that such legal protections would enhance the ability of the U.S. to develop a knowledge economy based on innovation. However, the problem with the restrictive DMCA model is that it is used to stifle innovation and new business models."