MP’s wade into download war

Internationally, Canada’s enforcement of copyright laws when it comes to the illegal downloading of songs and content from the Internet is a fiasco.

First one judge rules that it’s not illegal to download copyrighted content through peer-to-peer networks, but it is illegal for peers to make copyrighted materials available for others. Then another judge rules that there’s nothing illegal about trading copyrighted materials online, comparing the peer-to-peer networks to that old photocopier that you used to have in your local library.

Both judges seemed dangerously out of touch with the times and the technology, and more than a little naïve about the intentions of downloaders – nobody downloads a copy of ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast for a school paper.

The ability to copy pages out of books onto low-grade paper, one agonizing sheet at a time – which was never free by the way – is nothing compared to the technology that allows you to download whole songs in a fraction of the time it takes to listen to them. With a good high-speed service you can download an entire album in under 20 minutes, and an entire bootlegged movie in under an hour.

Both court rulings left the Canadian Recording Industry Association foaming at the mouth for justice and some public acknowledgement of their huge revenue losses in recent years. They want the same ability to sue individual downloaders as the Recording Industry Association of America enjoys south of the border, which has been extremely effective in curbing the illegal practice.

The CRIA may get some relief after all – not from laws but from our nation’s lawmakers.

Last week a group of Members of Parliament studying Canada’s copyright laws suggested that it’s in Canada’s best interest to ratify international treaties that strengthen copyright laws for online content, especially the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty already signed by 44 countries including the U.S.

Furthermore the Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is lobbying for a few alterations to the Copyright Act that make ISP’s (Internet Service Provider’s) liable for copyright infringements.

Currently ISP’s protect the identities of their clients, and aren’t liable for their online activities. If the committee’s proposed changes go through then ISP’s will be forced to reveal the identities of their clients, or could themselves be held monetarily liable.

The announcement was a dream come true for the CRIA, which estimates that is has lost more than half a billion dollars in sales over the past five years due to illegal downloading.

Last week they recorded more than 500,000 illegal attempts to download ‘Vaccination Scar’ by the Tragically Hip in a five-week period. During the same period fewer than 1,000 people purchased the song legally through online services.

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