Why C-11’s digital lock protection is a big, bad deal

Photo courtesy of Benj Mako Hill, used under CC 2.0 license

CBC News has run an excellent article that explains the implications of Bill C-11’s protection of digital locks (a.k.a. DRM for “digital rights management,” or TPM for “technological protection measures”). “If passed in its current form,” they write, the Copyright Modernization Act will:

  • Prohibit the circumventing of digital locks, even for legal purposes — such as the education or satire uses protected by other sections of the Act. This is one of the most controversial parts of the legislation. Many experts have criticized the government for not including an exemption that would allow for the bypassing of digital locks for legitimate purposes, such as the copying of parts of digitally locked textbooks to view on another device or for use in an assignment.
  • Prohibit the manufacture, importation and sale of technologies, devices and services designed primarily for the purpose of breaking digital locks. This includes technology designed to allow you to play foreign-bought DVDs on your North American player, for example.

The government’s rationale for keeping the TPM protection seems to suggest that consumers can always opt to purchase unlocked content and devices. But that’s simply untrue, and as many critics point out, legal protection of digital locks creates an incentive for media and tech companies to put them on more and more of what they sell.
For more examples of just how wide-reaching the effects of Bill C-11’s “constitutionally suspect” digital lock protection will be, see Michael Geist’s blog, which has started a “Daily Digital Lock Dissenter” series to catalogue its harms. He comes out swinging today on behalf of BC’s Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired, quoting its statement that TPMs “interfere with the use of some, if not all, of the adaptive technologies used by students with perceptual disabilities to access educational materials.”
It will be disastrous for Canadian industry, culture, and society should the government to insist on digital lock protection in C-11, especially since — as the CBC rightly notes — C-11 is, in most other respects, a balanced and even progressive bill.

“Copyright changes: how they’ll affect users of digital content.” CBC News 30 Sept. 2011.
Geist, Michael. “The Daily Digital Lock Dissenter, Day 1: The Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired.” Michael Geist [blog] 3 Oct. 2011.

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