Home > C11, Copyright, Digital Policy > What Digital Locks Will Mean For Business

What Digital Locks Will Mean For Business

The committee looking into Canada’s new copyright bill C-11 wrapped up its witness phase last week.  The committee members have now started to go through the amendments clause by clause for approval or disapproval, before it comes back to the House of Commons for 3rd reading and royal assent into law.  Michael Geist points out all political positions by all parties on proposed amendments in a recent post. Most notable Geist states:

The government’s decision to leave the digital lock rules untouched is unsurprising but still a disappointment, since both opposition parties were clearly persuaded that such a change was needed. On the other hand, given the heavy lobbying by many groups demanding changes to fair dealing (all parties rejected calls for a new fair dealing test or limitations on education), user-generated content (there were multiple calls for its removal), statutory damages (there were calls for unlimited damages), and Internet liability (there were calls for notice-and-takedown and subscriber disclosure requirements), the government’s proposed amendments are relatively modest.

The thousands of Canadians who spoke out may have had an effect as the bill could clearly have been made far worse. There is a need to remain vigilant, however, as the clause-by-clause review has just begun, more changes could still come, and the lobbying will not end until the bill receives royal assent. With that in mind – and with both opposition parties supporting sensible compromises on digital locks – there is still a need for Canadians to speak to their MPs and other elected officials.

The digital locks provisions are more of a concern to me as a developer.  Often times custom software is built and coded to bridge existing tech and software.  This will become a lot harder and more expensive to do, especially with small and medium-sized businesses. This could potentially mean that any business looking to get custom solutions built around existing tech, will have to look towards the publisher of the software and hardware manufacturer to in order to purchase a right to adapt to it.  This opens up a huge revenue stream for industry incumbents, and a burn hole in the back pockets of the backbone of our economy. However, it may end up back firing as businesses look towards open source solutions rather than the industry incumbents.  The whole point in systems analysis is to make businesses run more efficiently with less cost, not to service incumbents.

On the consumer side however, digital locks are nothing more than an annoyance, and Government was warned by its own independent sources looking into digital locks during the copyright debate to “be careful on laws that you cannot enforce.”

So the real question is how will digital locks be enforceable on the consumer side?  This will be more of a business and education expense.  An expense in which both Canadian tax payers and Canadian business innovators will now be on the hook for in the short-term at a time when we can’t even get some of these incumbents to spend the money and expand to create jobs.  It’s a cash grab, and not something I would call a good digital economic strategy, or good public policy.

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