Digital Rights Management
In an encouraging sign of intelligent life within the Canadian federal government, copyright reform legislation is being proposed which strikes much more of a balance between the interests of content providers and the interests of the public than is the case in the USA. Notably, circumvention is prohibited only when it is done for infringing purposes. More analysis can be found at Michael Gesit's Web Site. Yeah Canada !
As a result of a case involving divulging the identity of ISP customers alleged to be illegally sharing music files, a Canadian federal judge effectively ruled in spring 2004 that File Sharing is Legal in Canada. This makes Canada the only advanced nation to take such a position. While there are some good arguments in favour of free P2P (for instance, that Canadians are already paying via levies), this case evidently hinged on more arcane issues such as the definition of "distribution". This is unlikely to last in the face of inevitable massive attacks by the music business.
Canada is in the socioeconomic and political shadow of the USA, but we are more European than American in our belief that government intervention to protect our health, privacy, or culture is often appropriate.
Canada is also one of the USA's few technological peers when it comes to the Internet. Many Canadian high-technology companies have contributed to the Internet or commercial software in general, and to DRM in particular. Over half of the Canadian on-line population has high-speed Internet access - more than in the USA.
Because of this combination of technical sophistication and middle-ground politics, Canada is an interesting laboratory in which to watch Digital Rights Management evolve.
Read on - or browse the links at left - for more on various aspects or DRM in Canada.
DRM-Related Canadian Policy, Legislation, and Politics
In Canada, the federal government plays a leading role over the provinces except for education and health care. As a result, Canada is legally more homogeneous than the USA and it is almost exclusively federal (as opposed to provincial) policy and law which impact DRM. The federal government recognizes the need to adopt laws to the Internet age but is doing so very slowly. This is partly from caution, partly from having an relatively slow, secretive legislative process, and partly from a genuine desire to avoid "going overboard" as many would argue the USA has done with, say, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The government uses its agencies such as Industry Canada, Heritage Canada and strategis to gather input and shape policy in areas such as copyright. Your humble scribe made a contribution to the copyright policy process, here. Factors including a leadership transition in the Federal government make it likely that no significant policy or legal changes affecting DRM will happen in Canada before 2005.
Government Can be Good (Really !)
A government which is (by US standards anyway) interventionist, is not always a bad thing. Canadian government support has helped create centralized Web sites through which ordinary people can legitimately license works such as books or music from a large selection of Canadian copyright owners. Whatever their ultimate success, they address a very real issue: people cheat on copyrights partly because it's so freakin' hard to be honest !
Accesscopyright addresses printed works and
SOCAN addresses music.
Levies and the CPCC
In Canada recordable media are subject to a levy - a special-purpose tax predicated on the assumption the media will be used to make unauthorized copies of commercial recordings. By most accounts, there are more such levies in Canada than anywhere else in the world. This is managed by the Canadian Private Copying Collective which according to their Web site is: "...the non-profit agency charged with collecting and distributing private copying royalties". The levies paid in Canada go to this group and, through it, to presumably affected artists. While the current levy rates on cassettes and CD-Rs are the subject of some debate, the proposed rates go much further, adding not only DVD-Rs but also Flash memory and hard disk memory (other than on PCs) to the list. This would add - sometimes appreciably - to the cost of some of these items, and is opposed by many, including groups such as the Canadian Coalition for Fair Digital Access and the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, a lobby group whose members include a Who's Who of technology and law in Canada.
Canadian On-Line Music
Given that Canadians are among the world's most wired people, and right next door to the leading-edge USA, it's surprising on the face of it that it took until fall 2003 for the first Canadian online music service (Puretracks) to emerge, and more than a year after than for the iTunes Canada site. Licensing issues - not technical ones - have caused US-based online music services to serve only customers inside the USA, and easily verified parameters like IP addresses and credit card numbers have stopped Canadians and others from "pretending" to be in the USA. The Canadian market is also relatively small, and a couple of sites does not a competitive market make. But it's a start.
Canadian DRM-Related Companies
This Alberta company has evolved from the early, idealistic days when it went by the name of "tragoes" and preached superdistribution before there was really any good technology to do it. Currently they have a more pragmatic focus on the enterprise space and are servicing the oil-and-gas industry in their own back yard, while targeting other promising markets such as health care.
Ontario-based Musicrypt is focused on the business-to-business DRM market, primarily in providing secure label-to-radio-station delivery of music in soft form.
Also based in Alberta, this company has been providing license management for PC software for over 10 years.
Dead or Dormant Companies
An Ottawa-based spinoff of Nortel Networks, founded by the author of these pages.
Formed at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, (just a short drive down the highway from NetActive) in the late 1990s, this startup never gained critical mass, and current Web hits on "mediashell" are unrelated.