Bill C-11 and digital locks: The National Post comes out swinging

Shorter National Post: Banning the breaking of digital locks, as the Copyright Modernization Act proposes, has little to do with copyright and impairs individuals’ private-property rights.

That’s about 100% correct. It’s a bad proposal that has little, if anything, to do with actually promoting creativity and the dissemination of creative works – you know, the actual justification for copyright.

The whole editorial is definitely worth your time, but I have a small quibble with it. According to the National Post:

The only reason for governments to enact such laws is to protect established old-media players in the music and movie business.

While this will be the effect of the law, I don’t think it’s the reason the government continues to support strong legal protection for digital locks.

Everything we know suggests that the main reason the Conservatives are going to the mat over digital locks is to satisfy the U.S. government. As I’ve noted before, there was a departmental consensus in 2005 that U.S.-style digital-lock protection was not the way to go, and the facts of the case today aren’t any different than they were six years ago. In 2007-08, interference from the Prime Minister’s Office led to the first proposal, Bill C-61, favouring U.S.-style digital-lock protection, and that’s been their position ever since. They’ve now consistently supported stronger digital-lock protection through three bills and in defiance of very strong opposition during the 2009 public consultations.

(Sometimes I wonder if the PMO went along with the Americans just so they wouldn’t have to listen to them complain about Canada’s copyright laws anymore. Given that there’ll always be something in Canada’s copyright laws to complain about, I truly hope that this was not the case. If it isn’t, though, I’d love to know what Canada got in return for agreeing to enact a bad law.)

The government’s continued obstinacy on this issue, in the face of widespread criticism, does not inspire hope that the government will back down, even as nominal allies like the National Post‘s editorial board raise some very important concerns.

I’d love to be proven wrong, though, and Stephen Harper’s bizarre actions in other areas, most notably the unconscionable cancellation of the mandatory long-form census, has always left me just a little bit unsure about which way the government might jump on non-law-and-order issues. Those interested in getting involved could do much worse than head over to Laurel L. Russwurm’s site for some C-11 info and a list of names and e-mails of the MPs sitting on the legislative committee that will be examining the bill.

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