By Alex HudsonIn 2008, the Conservative Party introduced Bill C-61 as an attempt to amend the Copyright Act and enact harsher penalties on Canadians who download copyrighted material. Anyone found guilty of illegal downloading could be charged $500, while sharing copyrighted material would result in a fine of $20,000. Bill C-61 died on the order paper, however, after Parliament dissolved and an election was called in '08, but the Prime Minister's Office is reportedly now drafting legislation that will replicate the previous bill almost exactly.
According to a blog post by Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, the bill is a result of pressure from the U.S. to replicate its controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
As Geist notes, the proposed bill is a move away from the government's previously consumer-friendly approach to copyright law, which included a public consultation last summer. Instead, the professor argues that the new bill will contain "tough anti-circumvention rules and no flexible fair dealing provision," making it "the most anti-consumer copyright bill in Canadian history."
In 2009, NDP MP Charlie Angus told Exclaim!, "C-61 was bordering on ridiculous in its attempt to blur the line between criminal counterfeiting and legitimate personal use. The bill was dead on arrival because [to give it effect] you'd have to police every internet use, every home use and it's simply not feasible. I think they learned that simply relying on corporate lobbyists to dictate copyright just isn't realistic in the 21st century."
We won't see exactly what the new bill looks like until June, but you can join the Facebook group and Facebook page in support of fair copyright laws. If you'd like to make your opinion known, Geist advises that you send a letter to the House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6. No stamp is required.