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Pending copyright bill to mimic U.S.: Geist

It seems the Conservatives are taking another shot at making Canadian copyright law look a lot like U.S. copyright law.

University of Ottawa law professor and copyright expert Michael Geist is reporting that the Prime Minister is on the verge of introducing a bill that would essentially be "the most anti-consumer copyright bill in Canadian history."

Mr. Geist says the bills in line with Heritage Minister James Moore's vision of a tough copyright law that would mimic the much-loathed U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S.

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Among other things, such laws impose harsh penalties on people who try to break anti-circumvention technology on digital content. Such locks are in place largely to keep consumers from copying content -- this is a major point of criticism because consumers have been able to copy content they've purchased for years. Think of the tape cassette.

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We've yet to see the bill, which Mr. Geist says will be introduced in the next six weeks. But this isn't the first time the Conservative government has tried to enact such law. Bill C-61, proposed in 2008, sparked outrage for what critics described as anti-consumer, pro-copyright-holder measures, such as forcing users to abide by content locks. The bill died in Ottawa, and the government subsequently conducted nationwide consultation with Canadians about what a new law should look like. In light of this week's news, Mr. Geist says, that consultation was essentially pointless.

Instead, the consultation appears to have been little more than theatre, with the PMO and Moore choosing to dismiss public opinion," he writes on his blog. "Second, after adopting distinctly pro-consumer positions on other issues, Moore has abandoned that approach with support for what may become the most anti-consumer copyright bill in Canadian history."

More than almost any technology-related issue -- with the possible exception of the quality of Canadian carriers -- copyright law generates outrage. Facebook groups dedicated to repealing bill C-61 drew massive numbers of supporters. Movie and music companies, on the other hand, frequently paint apocalyptic pictures of entire creative industries dying because users download Transformers 2 off the web instead of going to the theatre or buying the DVD. Recently, adult movie stars got in on the act, filming a public service announcement chastising users who don't pay for their porn.

If Mr. Geist's time-line is correct, expect the frenzy to intensify over the next six weeks.

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