Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Is it legal to look at the Web in Canada?

Michael Geist examines two warring proposals for ensuring that Canadian schools' use of the Internet is lawful and concludes that both of them cause more harm than they prevent. On the one hand, Access Canada proposes to collect fees from schools for just looking at the web, a license shakedown that would treat all educational use as a copyright infringement unless you'd paid them for permission to turn on your web-browser.

A seemingly better proposal comes from CMEC, which represents Canada's education ministries: they say that Canadian copyright should be rewritten to carve out a new exception for schools' educational use of the Web.

But Geist shows that this latter proposal comes with lots of potential for harm. If schools need an exception to copyright to look at the Web, what does that say about uses of the Web in businesses, homes, libraries, home tutoring outfits, and elsewhere? Surely reading and studying published documents should be lawful for everyone, not just schools.

Another risk is that the US entertainment companies' reps in Canada will use this "generous loosening" of copyright law as the basis for a Canadian version of the DMCA, the US law that has sent researchers to jail and let the entertainment companies invent new private copyright laws that you can't violate without being sued.

Geist has been tracking this Canadian DMCA proposal with his 30 days of DRM series, an exhaustive look at the Canadian DMCA proposal and the harm it will bring down if the Tories pass it as they have promised to do.


(Thanks, Michael!)

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