Some observations on Bill C-11: The Copyright Modernization Act

Last Thursday the Government of Canada introduced into the House of Commons Bill C-11, an Act to Amend the Copyright Act. In a press release describing the Bill, Heritage Minister James Moore and Industry Minister Christian Paradis, stated that the Bill will ensure that Canada’s copyright laws “are modern, flexible, and in line with current international standards” and will “protect and help create jobs, promote innovation, and attract new investment to Canada.”

In the press conference announcing the Bill at the Ottawa office of software producer bitHeads Inc., Minister Paradis added “With the reintroduction of today’s legislation, Canadians will soon have a modern and responsive copyright law for the digital age that protects and helps create jobs, promotes innovation and attracts new investment to Canada”. In the House of Commons Minister Moore also said “we introduced a bill that is fair to everyone, both creators and consumers. What artists across the country need right now is copyright legislation that will make piracy illegal in Canada. That is what Bill C-11 will do.”

Bill C-11 is the fourth attempt to amend the Copyright Act since 2005 — to bring the Act into the digital age. The Bill will likely make good the promise made in the Conservative Party Platform on Copyright that, “A Stephen Harper-led majority Government will also reintroduce and pass the Copyright Modernization Act, a key pillar in our commitment to make Canada a leader in the global digital economy.” It will also likely deliver on the commitment made in the Throne Speech to swiftly pass “copyright legislation that balances the needs of creators and users.”

Bill C-11 contains the same proposed amendments as its predecessor, Bill C-32.  This was anticipated based on statements made by Minister Moore and others prior to its introduction. According to a press release announcing that Canada had signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the “bill informed and guided Canada’s approach to the ACTA negotiations.”

Along with Bill C-11, the Government released Fact Sheets, an FAQ, and a Backgrounder.[1] These are all available on the Government`s website:

The FAQ describe certain aspects of the Bill including the following summary that says the Copyright Modernization Act will:

  • implement the rights and protections of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet treaties;
  • give copyright owners the tools they need to combat piracy;
  • clarify the roles and responsibilities of ISPs and search engines;
  • promote creativity and new methods of teaching in the classroom by providing greatly expanded exceptions for education;
  • encourage innovation in the private sector through exceptions for technical computer processes;
  • provide legal protection for businesses that choose to use technological protection measures or “digital locks” to protect their work as part of their business models; and,
  • give consumers the ability to, among other things, record their favourite TV shows for later viewing, transfer music from a CD to a digital device, and create a mash-up to post via social media.

I previous provided an overview of the Bill`s key provisions. See, Some thoughts on Bill-C-32: An Act to Modernize Canada’s copyright laws.

As I noted in My C-32 opening remarks to the Legislative Committee that studied Bill C-32, I support the government’s objectives. There are, however, areas where the Bill would have significant unintended consequences if passed without amendments consistent with those objectives. Many of these are technical. Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, referred to this in a press release when Bill C-11 was introduced on Sept. 29th:

While the Canadian Chamber supports the principles behind this copyright legislation, improvements still need to be made to the bill. As currently drafted, the bill still contains some possible unintended consequences that could prove problematic for business. We look forward to a rigorous review of the bill at committee stage that will make sure that it achieves the purposes for which it is designed.

In the Government background documents the Government stated that it will refer the Bill to a House of Commons committee and that the “work and testimony from the previous Parliament will be carefully considered and taken into account.” Minister Paradis also confirmed at the press conference that the Government “…will make any technical fixes necessary to achieve our objectives of taking meaningful action on copyright piracy, protecting right owners and promoting creativity, innovation and legitimate business models for the benefit of the consumers.” The Government`s objective remains to have the Bill passed by Christmas.

There has been considerable debate concerning some of proposed amendments. Some of the main issues that will be debated as the Bill winds its way through a House of Commons committee and, ultimately, into law are the following:

  • Technological Protection Measures
  • The Enablement Right
  • The Non-Commercial User-Generated Content (UGC) Exception
  • Statutory damages
  • The Internet Service Provider and Search Engine Exceptions and Responsibilities
  • The Fair Dealing for Education Exception
  • The Copyright Exceptions to Encourage Innovation

Technological Protection Measures (aka digital locks or TPMs)

Bill C-11 will prohibit circumventing (hacking) of TPMs that control access to a work. It will also prohibit trafficking of tools or provision of services that can be used for this purpose. The Government background documents explained the TPM provisions and the rationale for protecting TPMs as follows:

Innovative companies, such as video game developers, will have the legal tools to protect the investments they have made in order to reinvest in future innovation and jobs.

Protecting digital locks gives copyright industries the certainty they need to roll out new products and services, such as online subscription services, software and video games, if they choose to use this technology. Not only will this promote investment and growth in Canada’s digital economy, it will also encourage the introduction of innovative online services that offer access to content. Such services are increasingly available in other countries.

The Bill recognizes that certain protections, such as restricted content on news websites or locked video games, are important tools for copyright owners to protect their digital works and are often an important part of online and digital business models.

Opponents of legal protection for TPMs — such as Michael Geist — have made inaccurate statements about the legal protection for TPMs. Michael Geist’s relentless misinformation campaign[2] against them makes it difficult and confusing for many Canadians to form informed views about the Bill’s TPM provisions. Michael Geist repeated some of the inaccurate or misleading statements in a blog post and in the media after the Bill was introduced. For example:

  • He continues to suggest that “digital lock rules trump education rights”. However, since Bill C-11 does not prohibit circumventing copy control TPMs, it would be legal to hack a copy control TPM for an educational or any other purpose. Once hacked, a person would be able to make copies of the unprotected work under the new fair dealing for education exception, as long as the dealing is “fair”. However, a person could not bypass a technical control that protects a work against access the person is not entitled to in the first place.[3] The prohibition against hacking access control TPMs is not about “trumping education rights”. It is about ensuring that people who want to make copies of a work for an educational purpose obtain legal access to the work such as by purchasing or licensing a copy in order that the creator or other rights holder may be compensated.
  • He also continues to argue that “digital lock rules extend far beyond those required for compliance with the WIPO Internet treaties”; that Canada can properly implement the WIPO Treaties by limiting the prohibition on circumvention to an infringing purpose; that the WIPO Treaties would permit hacking TPMs for the purpose of format shifting; that many of our trading partners have implemented the WIPO Treaties in these ways; and that “many of our trading partners have adopted more balanced digital lock rules”. He makes these arguments although they have been found to be completely inconsistent with the minimum requirements of the Treaties by the leading international expert , Dr. Mihaly Ficscor here, here, here, and here. Michael Geist’s proposals would, essentially, eviscerate the business and policy reasons for protecting TPMs.
  • Further, he suggests that the U.S. DMCA’s TPM provisions “offer more flexibility than Canada”.  This statement is misleading as I have shown here, here, and here.

There is also considerable misunderstanding about the TPM provisions within the general public. For example,

  • the National Post, Vancouver Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, Calgary Herald, and other newspapers just published an article stating that the TPM “provisions would make consumers liable for thousands of dollars in legal damages if they break the digital encryption on a purchased DVD or video game to make a backup copy for themselves.”
  • the Montreal Gazette published an article stating that Bill C-11 contains a “blanket provision against breaking digital locks, even for purposes of personal use; The bill provides for $5,000 fines for even the smallest such violations. This provision was apparently included as a result of heavy pressure from U.S. authorities and in the interest of maintaining cross-border trade and exemption from protectionist measures that would prevent Canadian firms from bidding on U.S. government procurement contracts.”

These statements are just plain wrong. The Bill does not prohibit hacking copy control digital locks for any purpose and there are multiple exceptions that permit circumventing access control TPMs. Moreover, Section 41.1(3) of the Bill expressly precludes an award of statutory damages against an individual who circumvents a TPM for his or her own private purposes. Accordingly, it is flat out wrong to claim that an individual could be liable for “thousands of dollars in legal damages” for hacking a TPM for personal purposes. Further, even if statutory damages did apply, which they do not, the Bill would limit such damages to a range, the maximum of which would be $5,000 for the most egregious case.

In my blog post, An FAQ on TPMs, Copyright and Bill C-32, I tried to set the record straight on the following questions about the legal protection for TPMs to enable the public to make their own assessment of the TPM provisions in Bill C-32 based on correct information:

  • Whether Bill C-32 properly implements the WIPO Treaties consistent with the practices of our trading partners
  • Whether the Bill permits copying for fair dealing, educational, and other purposes
  • Whether the circumvention exceptions in the Bill are flexible enough to deal with unforeseen or unintended consequences
  • Whether Canada can properly implement the WIPO Treaties by limiting the prohibition on circumvention to an infringing purpose
  • Whether other jurisdictions limit protection of TPMs to circumvention for an infringing purpose
  • Whether circumvention of TPMs for the purposes of format shifting, time shifting, and making back-up copies for private purposes (private copying) ought to be permitted
  • (Given that one of the legislative goals is to follow international standards) whether other jurisdictions permit exceptions for private copying to trump TPMs
  • Whether an exception for private copying that permits circumvention of TPMs for such purpose would comply with the Berne Three Step Test
  • Whether the WIPO Treaties which Canada has committed to ratify permit circumventing TPMs for private copying
  • Whether Michael Geist`s two proposals for amending the TPM provisions in Bill C-32 (now Bill C-11) have international precedents.

Other posts such as the ones set out below also correct inaccurate statements made about legal protection for TPMs.

The Enablement Right

Section 27(2.3) of Bill C-11 would create a new cause of action referred to in the Bill as “enablement”. The Government background documents describe this new right and the rationale for it as follows:

The Bill gives copyright owners the tools to pursue those who wilfully and knowingly enable copyright infringement online, such as operators of websites that facilitate illegal file-sharing.

It recognizes that the most effective way to stop online copyright infringement is to target those who enable and profit from the infringements of others. By allowing copyright owners to pursue these “enablers”, such as illegal peer-to-peer file sharing sites, this Bill supports the development of significant legitimate markets for downloading and streaming in Canada. This supplements existing criminal punishments for those who aid and abet infringement.

The Government background documents also state that the “proposed legislation will ensure that services that enable infringement will not benefit from the liability limitations afforded to ISPs and search engines.”

From the appearances and submissions to the Legislative Committee that studied C-32, there is a consensus supporting the enablement provision. Michael Geist, however, opposes giving rights holders tools to go after pirate sites and services like IsoHunt calling into question the need for an enablement amendment. I responded to his contradictory posts on the state of Canadian secondary liability law in a blog post, Are Canada’s copyright laws friendly or unfriendly towards wealth destroyers according to Prof. Geist? I concluded that:

It is clear that Prof. Geist’s objective in this recent spate of activity is to persuade policy makers and the public that the new proposed enablement cause of action is not needed because Canada’s copyright laws are already robust enough to deal with what Minister Clement calls “the wealth destroyers” like IsoHunt. However, for years Prof. Geist has consistently and repeatedly been writing and telling the public that Canada’s laws related to authorization might not be effective against pirate sites and services and that Canada does not have contributory liability laws that can be used against these sites and services…

The only conclusion that can be drawn from a review of his writings is that he has either changed his long standing opinion about the state of Canadian law – now believing it is effective enough to shut down the wealth destroyers like IsoHunt- or that he is inaccurately describing what he believes Canadian law to be to oppose the amendments in Bill C-32 that are intended to give rights holders the tools needed to close down wealth destroyers.

While the new enablement right could be a very useful tool in fighting online pirate sites and services, it has some technical drafting deficiencies that need to be fixed to ensure that the new cause of action can be used as intended. Perrin Beatty of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce noted this in the Q&A at the press conference in Ottawa where he stated that the concept of “designed primarily to enable infringement” needed to be clarified and that this clarification is an “essential technical amendment to ensure that the bill in fact achieves the purpose for which it was intended.”

I addressed the drafting problems in My C-32 opening remarks to the Legislative Committee and in an article co-written with Dan Glover titled C-32 enablement remedy targets secondary copyright infringement. There we noted three of the technical amendments that are needed to ensure the Government`s objectives of targeting the “wealth destroyers” are met.

  • First, Parliament must recognize that pirate sites and services often are “not designed primarily to enable” acts of copyright infringement. The design is very often neutral, but the site or service is operated to induce, aid or abet infringing activities, or is primarily operated or used for infringing purposes.
  • Second, Parliament must ensure that this provision clearly trumps all of the online service provider exceptions to avoid a circumstance in which enablers like wealth destroying pirate hosting sites can avoid liability for enablement.
  • Third, to provide an adequate and effective remedy against enablement, Parliament should confirm that rightsholders may rely on the full scale of statutory damages against those who are liable for enablement, regardless of whether such persons were operating for commercial purposes or not.

The Non-Commercial User-Generated Content (UGC) Exception

Bill C-11 contains a new exception that would permit individuals to use existing content to create new ‘user generated content’. The Government background documents describe this amendment and its objective as follows:

The Bill permits the use of legitimately acquired material in user-generated content created for non-commercial purposes. This applies only to creations that do not affect the market for the original material. Examples could include making a home video of your friends and family dancing to a popular song and posting it online, or creating a “mash-up” of video clips.

The Government background documents also state that the changes proposed are in “conformity with Canada’s international obligations”.

In My C-32 opening remarks to the Legislative Committee studying Bill C-32 I pointed out some of the unintended consequences of the draft wording in the UGC amendment stating the following:

This is an exception that, to my knowledge, does not exist anywhere else in the world.

From a technical drafting perspective, the exception is so widely cast that it would most likely violate Canada’s WTO TRIPS obligations. TRIPs mandates that exceptions must be subject to what is known internationally as the 3 step test.

The exception, as drafted, would permit individuals to do almost anything that the author could do with his/her work including creating translations, sequels, or other derivative works and publish them on the internet.

They could also create a “collective work” or “compilation” of works such as “the best” of a TV series or artists’ works, or iPod playlist and post those on the internet.

They can also do a lot more.

The result is that the author loses significant control over the uses of his/her work.

But, over and above this, there could be significant economic consequences to the author. The intention is to permit uses which have no effect on the market for the work. However, the drafting permits aggregate effects on the market for the work that could be very substantial.

Also, the individual’s use of the new UGC work must be non-commercial. But a web site operator can charge for disseminating the UGC work. But, the author gets none of that. They would however in other countries which don’t have this exception and which have let the market solve the problem.

I also highlighted some of the potential problems with the draft language of the UGC, format shifting, time shifting, and back-up copying exceptions in a speech on Bill C-32’s fair dealing and other new copyright exceptions at Osgoode Hall Law School’s professional development program on understanding Bill C-32.

Statutory damages

Bill C-11 would cap statutory damages against individuals who infringe copyright for non-commercial purposes to a range of between $100 and $5,000 for all works involved in the proceeding. It also specifically exempts persons who are liable under the new enablement provision from any statutory damages. The Government background documents describe this amendment and its objective as follows:

This Bill ensures that Canadians will not face disproportionate penalties for minor infringements of copyright by distinguishing between commercial and non-commercial infringement.

The Bill ensures that Canadians are not subject to unreasonable penalties by significantly reducing statutory damages for infringement for non-commercial purposes by individuals, providing the courts with the flexibility to award between $100 and $5,000 in total damages. Using the same example of five illegally downloaded songs, the individual would only be liable for a penalty of between $100 and $5,000 under the proposed changes. The Bill will ensure that courts take proportionality into account in awarding damages.

It appears that the rationale for capping statutory damages against individuals is to preclude large judgements against them when they engage in unauthorized downloading of copyright content over the internet. The underlying concern seems to stem from a fear that a Canadian court would award large damages such as have been awarded in the United States.

The existing Canadian and U.S. regimes are very different, however. In the U.S., the statutory damages per work infringed range from $750 to $30,000 for non-wilful infringements. This range can be increased to $750 to $150,000 for wilful infringements. Canada’s statutory damages range is lower- from $500 to $20,000- and cannot be increased even if the infringement is wilful. However, they can be reduced to a range of between $200 to $500 where a person, such as an individual, had no reasonable grounds to believe he or she was infringing. A Canadian Court also has the discretion to lower the damages to zero where there is multiple copying onto a single medium and the award would be grossly out of proportion to the infringement. The Canadian statutory damages regime, unlike the regime in the U.S., therefore already reflects a proportionality principle. Moreover, there has never been a case in Canada where a copyright owner has been awarded anything close to the maximum statutory damages against an individual who downloaded copies of copyright content from file sharing networks.

This Bill would accomplish the Government’s objectives of ensuring that Canadians will not face “disproportionate penalties for minor infringements of copyright by distinguishing between commercial and non-commercial infringement.” However, it does so in a way that undermines the Government’s objectives of deterring wide scale infringements and providing effective remedies against those infringements that can cause significant economic harm. For example:

  • the proposal would cap the recovery of statutory damages against infringements undertaken by organized groups like those who trade in Warez – pirated copyrighted works distributed without fees or royalties and without any commercial purpose – in violation of copyright law.[4] This would effectively cap statutory damages at $5,000 for persons who cause large scale commercial damage, but who do so for reasons other than profit. Some of the most notorious pirates and pirate sites are operated for reputational rather than profit motives.
  • the proposal would preclude recovery of statutory damages against any pirate site or service that was liable under the new enablement cause of action. If the site was operated for a non-commercial e.g. reputational, purpose statutory damages could be not be recovered. However, statutory damages would still not be recoverable even against a for profit pirate site or service because of the special exception for statutory damages according to such sites.[5] Ironically, under Bill C-11 a person who is liable for enablement – a “wealth destroyer” to use the words of former Industry Minister Tony Clement- would be subject to no statutory damages while an individual who causes minimal damage and who infringes for a non-commercial purpose would be.
  • the proposal would cap statutory damages at $5,000 even though a person might copy, distribute, and make available over the internet hundreds of software, video games, e-books, movies, music and other copyright content that are downloaded by thousands of other individuals as long as these acts are done for “non-commercial purposes”; for example, it would enable individuals to copy and store entire libraries of works and to distribute them to all of the person’s friends, including all of the person’s friends on social networks, high school, university or work colleagues, and over file sharing networks like IsoHunt  to millions of potential downloaders, and the maximum statutory damages would still be $5,000.

In amending the statutory damages regime, the Government should not inadvertently undermine the usefulness of statutory damages which are necessary to ensure there are effective remedies against infringers, discourage infringement, reduce the costs of litigation, and encourage parties to settle litigation. When the statutory damages regime was enacted by the Government in 1997 (the same year Canada signed the WIPO Treaties), it explained the rationale for them as follows:

A copyright owner who commences proceedings for infringement must prove not only the infringement, but also the losses suffered as a result. However, it is often difficult, sometimes impossible, to prove such losses because evidence as to the extent of infringement is usually difficult and/or expensive to find. Statutory damages alleviate this difficulty by guaranteeing a minimum award of damages once infringement is established. They also ease the evidentiary burden on the plaintiff in proceedings for infringement, deter future infringements, reduce the cost of litigation and encourage the parties to settle matters out of court.

The above rationale for statutory damages is still valid.

The Internet Service Provider and Search Engine Exceptions and Responsibilities

Bill C-11 contains four new exceptions referred to as the network service, caching, hosting, and information location tool (aka search engine or ILT) exceptions. The object of these exceptions is explained in the Government background documents as follows:

The Bill ensures that ISPs and search engines will not be held liable for the copyright infringements of their subscribers, to the extent that they are acting as neutral intermediaries (e.g., when they provide Internet access, allow users to download material they have stored in online personal storage space they control, or make temporary cached copies for network efficiency).

The bill will clarify that Internet service providers (ISPs) and search engines are exempt from liability when they act strictly as intermediaries in communication, caching, and hosting activities. The proposed legislation will ensure that services that enable infringement will not benefit from the liability limitations afforded to ISPs and search engines.

These provisions also require technical amendments to ensure the Government`s objectives are met. On March 22, 2010, TELUS, Bell and Rogers appeared before the Legislative Committee studying Bill C-32. who appeared for TELUS acknowledged that some technical amendments are needed to the ISP and ILT exceptions stating the following:

TELUS would support amendments that would give rights holders more powerful tools to go after those who actively enable infringement, and also amendments that would prevent the bad guys from taking advantage of the legal safe harbours intended to protect only the good guys…

TELUS does have some recommendations, but they’re relatively minor. They’re focused on making the notice and notice system work better, more efficiently, and more fairly for all the stakeholders involved. As I have also indicated, we recognize the concerns on the part of some rights holders that the provisions designed to protect innocent intermediaries may be drafted too broadly. They may allow not-so-innocent intermediaries to slip in underneath them. That’s not a desirable result, so we would certainly be open to amendments designed to tighten those up.

The Bill would also create a notice and notice regime. The process and its rationale are described in the Government background documents as follows:

The Bill formalizes the voluntary “notice and notice” regime currently used by Canadian ISPs. Under this system, when an ISP receives a notice from a copyright holder that a subscriber might be infringing copyright, it forwards a notice to the subscriber. The identity of the subscriber may then be released with a court order. This uniquely Canadian approach has been effective at discouraging infringement and is consistent with Canadian values.

A notice and notice process is somewhat useful in dealing with infringing activity across P2P networks and other transitory network communications. It should become part of Canadian law. Notice and notice is not effective, however, in permanently stopping online file sharing by users unless the individuals receiving the notices believe that sanctions could be imposed unless they stop such activity. We have had a de facto notice and notice system in Canada for many years and there is no empirical evidence that it materially changes people’s behaviour to stop illicit file sharing and purchase creative products from legitimate services. Research by our trading partners shows that while a simple notice may have a temporary effect in reducing online file sharing, only notices that have a threat of some sanction operate as an effective deterrent. I dealt with this issue in my submission to the Copyright Consultation in 2009 and in other blog posts including here and here.

Given the Government`s statements about copyright reform, it does not appear that any graduated response system will be put in place under any amendments to Bill C-11. However, as noted above in the testimony of Craig McTaggart some technical amendments are required to make the notice and notice system work as intended.

The Fair Dealing for Education Exception

Bill C-11 proposes to add education to the current list of fair dealing purposes. The Government background documents describe the proposed amendment and its objective as follows:

The Bill enables the use of copyrighted materials for the purpose of education, provided the use is “fair” (i.e., it does not harm the market for a work).

It expands fair dealing to recognize education in a structured context as a legitimate purpose.

As drafted, the proposed wording of the amendment would not accomplish the Government’s objective. The proposed amendment is not clearly limited to only enabling the use of copyrighted materials for the purpose of education “in a structured context”. Unlike all of the current educational purpose exceptions, the proposed amendment is not expressly limited to specific institutional beneficiaries. As well, the term “education” conveys a meaning that appears to go beyond any structured context.

Limiting the exception to dealings that are “fair” will also not ensure that the dealings do “not harm the market for a work. “Fairness” does not provide any assurance against this harm to rights holders. The courts in Canada have developed a list of six non-exclusive factors to assist in determining whether a dealing is fair. Of these six, the effect of the dealing on the work is only one factor to be considered. The Supreme Court in theCCH case stated that while the effect of the dealing on the market of the copyright owner is an important factor, “it is neither the only factor nor the most important factor that a court must consider in deciding if the dealing is fair.”This means that a court may be able to conclude that a dealing is fair even if it harms the market for a work. In contrast, in the United States, the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work is “the most important, and indeed, the central fair use factor”. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enters., 471 U.S. 539, (1985), Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens LP, (4th Cir. Sept. 2, 2010)

Prof. Giuseppina D’Agostino, a professor of Intellectual Property at Osgoode Hall Law School, in her testimony before the Legislative Committee stated the following in relation to the proposed new fair dealing exception:

This new purpose is too broad and invites years of litigation to clarify it, which will lead to access-to-justice issues and will force the courts to resolve matters that are for the government to legislate with confidence in so doing…

On fair dealing, one thing I haven’t talked about is my own analysis of the six factors. When you line up Canada with respect to the U.K. and the U.S., you see that the court says there are more or less six factors, and there could be more. At the same time, in terms of the effect of the dealing on the works–meaning the actual market considerations, the market substitute–the Supreme Court of Canada says that it’s not the only factor, nor the most important.

We know that this is not the case in the U.K. and not the case in the U.S. What we have in Canada with CCH is a broad and liberal interpretation of both the actual purposes and the fairness factor. Left unchecked, the way it’s configured now means that when you compound education plus CCH, you will have something broad, unless we are able to itemize exactly what we mean.

Ysolde Gendreau a professor of law at the University of Montreal and the President of Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale (ALAI Canada) in her testimony before the Legislative Committee stated the following:

I would like to submit a few examples of this found in Bill C-32, which, in ALAI’s view, undermines the three-step principle, because these exceptions are too broad, because they are based on unrealistic conditions that, once again, make them too broad. Here we’re talking about fair dealing for the purpose of education, the new section 29. We’re talking about non-commercial user-generated content, private copying under section 29.22…

In a law review article on the subject of the proposed fair dealing exception Professor Gendreau also expressed the opinion that the term “education” would not be read to mean “education in a structured context” and that the proposed exception would likely not meet any of the steps in the Berne Three Step Test.[6]

Michael Geist published a series of blog posts commenting on the scope of this new exception including one entitled “Clearing Up the Copyright Confusion: Fair Dealing and Bill C-32”. He concluded that this amendment would not affect the balance between creators of educational materials and the users of such materials or negatively impact the market for publications. My colleague Dan Glover wrote a series of blog posts responding to the incorrect assertions made by Michael Geist and others and demonstrating the need for amendments to the new exception in order to meet Government’s objectives. The posts are:

The Copyright Exceptions to Encourage Innovation

Bill C-11 would create news exceptions for developing interoperable computer programs, encryption research, network security testing, and technological processes. The rationale for these exceptions is explained in the Government background documents as follows:

The Copyright Modernization Act aims to eliminate some of the uncertainty facing innovative businesses. Provisions aimed at the software industry permit the reproduction of software and the hacking of digital locks in order to engage in reverse engineering, security testing and encryption research. Such provisions support, for example, companies that test software for security flaws and then develop and sell patches. Where copyright owners believe these tools have been misused, they will have recourse to deal with any infringement or inappropriate hacking of digital locks. The Bill also clarifies that companies do not face any copyright liability for technical copies that are essential but incidental to a product or service they offer.

These amendments also need technical fixes to ensure that the Government`s objectives are met. The need for this was addressed by John Manley, the President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, in his testimony before the Legislative Committee. After stating that he strongly endorsed “the overall thrust of this legislation” he said:

Having said that, I believe the committee may wish to consider certain technical changes to the bill so as to avoid unintended consequences. For example, important concerns have been raised with respect to the impact on Canada’s software industry of provisions dealing with encryption research, network security, reverse engineering and copying for interoperability purposes.

In addition, some of the language dealing with user-generated content and copying for private purposes may be too broad.

I also canvassed these amendments in a speech to the 14th Annual IT.Can Conference titled Bill C-32’s impacts on the IT community.


After many failed attempts to modernize Canada’s copyright laws, it now appears there is a Bill before Parliament that will do this. The Copyright Modernization Act, however, still requires careful scrutiny to ensure that appropriate technical amendments are made so that the Government’s objectives are met and to avoid significant inadvertent consequences inconsistent with the Government’s objectives.

For more information about the Copyright Modernization Act or Bill C-11 or copyright reform, see Change and the Copyright Modernization Act.

[1] These are referred to collectively here as the “Government background documents”

[2] Michael Geist accuses the book publishers of engaging in “a relentless misinformation campaign” against the fair dealing for education exception. His assertion is ironic since it is he that has engaged in this behaviour on copyright reform issues.

[3] See, James Gannon, TPMs: A comprehensive guide for Canadian copyright law

[4] See, Wikipedia, Warez

[5] Section 38.1(6)(d)

[6] Ysolde Gendreau Canada and the Three Step test: A Step in Which Direction? 15 Intellectual Property L. Rev. 309 (2011). In the article she said:

The purpose of education is introduced within the context of an exception, fair dealing, that does not have a statutory list of criteria for its evaluation. The fair dealing exception also entails that it applies to all categories of works and to all rights, reproduction rights as well as performing rights. Moreover, its application is not limited to educational institutions because of the following a contrario argument: the wording of the specific educational exceptions shows that they are intended for educational institutions while that of the fair dealing for the purpose of education makes no such mention. Consequently, the notion of education extends the application of this exception beyond educational institutions. Government representatives say that the exception is to be a test ground for exceptions that may eventually give rise to specific exceptions. However, they still maintain that it refers to education in a structured context.

It is easy to doubt such a statement because educational institutions do represent a structured context. Courts are likely to say that, in the absence of a specific reference to such institutions, the reference to “education” is not limited to structured contexts. So this new exception would introduce a very broad notion of education in a statute that does not include criteria for the appreciation of fair use either.

After discussing why the proposed exception would have difficulty passing all three of the three steps she concluded by saying:

Generally speaking, since the three-step test has become the standard by which to judge exceptions, I would say there is a fairly strong case for stating that the proposed provision on fair dealing for the purpose of education is so broadly drafted that it goes against the three-step test of the Berne Convention and of the TRIPS Agreement.

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6 thoughts on “Some observations on Bill C-11: The Copyright Modernization Act”

  1. DARRYL MOORE says:

    Mr. Sookman, you frequently claim Prof Geist is spreading misinformation about TPM’,s but as much as you try you do not actually prove what he says is indeed misinformation. For example, you say:

    “He continues to suggest that “digital lock rules trump education rights”. However, since Bill C-11 does not prohibit circumventing copy control TPMs, it would be legal to hack a copy control TPM for an educational or any other purpose.”

    Technically this may be true, but can you provide even one example of a TPM which restricts copying and does NOT also restrict access? Without being able to demonstrate the existence and use of such TPMs, it would be you spreading the misinformation since every act of copy control TPM circumvention would also be and act of access control TPM circumvention. Your differentiation between these two devices is a fallacy since they are generally one and the same in practice.

  2. anonymous says:

    You write that C-11 TPMs would only cover “access control” and not copying. But C-11 defines a TPM as “any effective technology, device or component that, in the ordinary course of its operation, … or (b) restricts the doing — with respect to a work, to a performer’s performance fixed in a sound recording or to a sound recording — of any act referred to in section 3, 15 or 18 and any act for which remuneration is payable under section 19.”

    Copying is a section 3 act. On what basis do you argue that copying isn’t covered by TPMs?

  3. Wayne Borean says:

    Ah, but the problem is that Bill C-11 leaves Canada out of compliance with the WIPO Internet Treaties. Since the purpose of the bill is to bring Canada into compliance, the bill is a failure.

    And yes, I will be providing a complete analysis of my reasoning on my own site later. I suspect that I won’t make Geist or you happy with my take on the situation.


  4. The definition covers both. But the prohibition is only against circumventing an access control TPM, not both. The anti-trafficking use both elements of the definition.

  5. Matt Nutt says:

    The proposed inclusion of DRM seems to me like a legal tool to protect the copyright holder that does not take into account the rights of the user. That said, whether they can even be effective at reducing piracy is debatable. My opinion is that it may prevent the most common occurrences of file-sharing but C-11 prohibits the act of circumvention, not including possession of circumvented work. How would it protect creative works once they have already been circumvented?

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