Made in America legislation could restrict Canadian freedoms on- and offline

By Everett Toews, Senior Developer, Edmonton

Recently, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill was defeated in the US, I wrote about it here. The bill was deeply flawed and threatened freedom of speech online in the US. Since the American entertainment industry lobbyists have been (for the time being) stopped from going forward in the US, they've now turned their attention to Canada.

Dr. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and keynote speaker at Cybera'€™s 2011 Summit, explains it much better than I can in his article, The Behind-the-Scenes Campaign To Bring SOPA To Canada, but allow me to extract a few choice pieces: "The music industry is unsurprisingly leading the way, demanding a series of changes that would make Bill C-11 look much more like SOPA.

"Several lobby groups also want language similar to that found in the infamous Section 103 of SOPA. That provision… spoke of sites '€˜primarily designed or operated for the purpose of…offering goods or services in a manner that engages in, enables, or facilitates; infringement'€™… The expansion of [an] enabler provision to include sites that operate to enable or induce infringement could extend far beyond so-called '€˜pirate sites'€™, since many user-generated content sites (such as YouTube) and cloud-based service sites can be said to enable or induce infringement, particularly in a country like Canada that does not have a fair use provision."

This was one of the major problems with the SOPA bill in the US. Any site accused of being an "enabler" of piracy could be blocked. Unfortunately, the language used in the bill is broad and vague, and could therefore be used against legitimate sites. At the very least this would effectively create a chill on investing in online businesses in Canada.

Geist continues: "The music industry also wants Internet providers to be required to adopt a termination policy for subscribers that are alleged to be repeat infringers… This demand would move Canada towards the graduated response policy that could result in loss of Internet service for Internet users. There is no indication in the music industry document of due process or even proof of infringement."

This is the truly horrific piece and something the lobbyists tried to get through in the SOPA bill, throwing away the need for due process or proof of infringement. While it's targeted at piracy, the lack of due process that this legislation could enable makes me fear for our freedom of speech online. With Canadians spending more and more time online, preserving this freedom is becoming more and more important. I do not want to see Canada go down this slippery slope. Today it's being used against piracy, tomorrow it will be used to take down a site that is critical of the entertainment industry, or one that links to a clip of a movie in order to discuss it.

Tin foil hats are unnecessary. Geist has this proof of American lobbyist influence on our legislation.

And those are just the additions to Bill C-11. As it stands right now the bill will also:

  • Make it illegal to unlock a DVD or video game for fair dealing purposes
  • Make it illegal to obtain the tools required to unlock a cell phone or transfer a DVD to another device
  • Make it illegal to unlock an eBook for research or private study purposes
  • Make it illegal to record a TV show with a PVR (when broadcasters put a particular flag on the show)

This is not about politics and I don't really believe this is about piracy. It is about our freedom.

What can you do?

Visit the page Send A Letter To Ottawa To Stop The Canadian DMCA of the Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights, which provides a template for you to write to your MP and other government members to let them know you oppose this bill.

What am I doing?

By writing this, I'm trying to create awareness about the issue. I've also sent this post as an email to my MP and other government members. In general, I'm supporting people who oppose this legislation anyway I can.

I'm still on the lookout for any other ways to raise awareness and express opposition. I hope you join me.