Confused? Consult a lawyer, government suggests
OTTAWA — Canadian consumers could face damages of $500 and upwards for owning bootleg copies of music, books and other copyright material, under legislative reforms introduced today.
There would be fines of up to $20,000 for public infringements of copyright law, such as posting music to the Internet or even giving an iPod loaded with your music.
The Conservatives today unveiled long-awaited changes to the Copyright Act, a bid to bring the law into the digital age.
And if you’re confused about the changes, the government has some advice — go see a lawyer.
"If you need to know how the law applies to a particular situation, please seek advice from a lawyer," read the warning printed on the information sheets distributed to reporters this morning.
"Intellectual property is complicated," a government official told a briefing this morning.
The government billed the reforms as "long overdue and much-needed."
"Our government has committed to ensuring Canada’s copyright law is up to date," Industry Minister Jim Prentice said in a news release.
He said the changes balances the interests between Canadian consumers and those who "create content."
He said the changes will ensure Canadians can use digital technologies at home or work.
But at the same time, the act introduces new penalties for the use of materials not "legally acquired."
"We are also providing new rights and protections for Canadians who create the content and who want to better secure their work online," Prentice said.
The new law will allow the government to better tackle on-line piracy.
However, there were questions whether the new law would be enforced and whether the copyright holders — responsible for going after illegal users — would be keen to lead a crackdown.
Still, there’s been broad acknowledgement that the current law has been outpaced by technology. For example, existing copyright legislation does not allow people to copy music onto devices such as computers or MP3 players like an iPod.
As a result, Prentice and his officials have been working on the first major overhaul of the legislation in a decade — since then, the Internet has blossomed, along with digital technology that has allowed consumers to easily swap music files, photos and video.
Under the reforms:
– you could copy a book, newspaper or photograph that you "legally acquired." But you couldn’t give away the copies. And you can’t make copies of materials you have borrowed.
– you could copy music that you have "legally acquired" on to devices you own. However, you could not copy music you have borrowed or rented. Nor could you give away copies.
– it would be illegal to post a copyright work — picture, song, film — on the Internet without the permission of the copyright owner.
– it would also be illegal to "hack" the digital locks placed on material to prevent their illegal distribution.
– Internet service providers would be compelled to notify subscribers accused of infringing copyright laws by uploading copyright works to the Internet.
The new act would also reform the penalties for people who infringe on copyrights.
Under the current law, a copyright holder can claim damages of $500 to $20,000 for each work that was infringed.
Under the proposed bill, consumers could be liable for $500 in damages for "private use infringements" pursued by the copyright holders.
However, the penalty could rise to up to $20,000 in damages if a consumer hacked a digital lock to make an illegal copy. That includes hacking the anti-copying mechanisms of a computer game to make illegal copies.
There would higher penalties as well for infringements that are not for private use, including posting music to the Internet.
The bill attempts to target those who upload illegally acquired material, rather than those who download it.