TORONTO — Canada has introduced long-awaited legislation to crack down on Internet music file-swapping.
Introduced in Parliament on Monday, the bill, which will amend the Copyright Act to make unauthorized music file-sharing on the Internet illegal, is a huge relief to the music recording and publishing industries.
They were left reeling last year by twin court decisions that online music file-sharing was not illegal and that Internet service providers were not responsible for royalties for downloaded digital music files.
“We’ve waited a very long time for this bill,” said Canadian Recording Industry Assn. prexy Graham Henderson, expressing relief that the bill was introduced before Parliament recessed for the summer. “This draft legislation takes several key steps to usher in a new era for Canada’s music industry, to provide the certainty that legitimate digital services need and to restore the balance that has been missing on the Internet.”
The music industry says that peer-to-peer file-sharing and music downloading is responsible for a downturn in CD sales and has cost the industry C$250 million ($202.4 million) in lost sales and royalties in the last three years.
“These amendments strengthen our creators and cultural industries against the unauthorized use of their works on the Internet,” said minister of heritage Liza Frulla. “This legislation strikes a balance to serve both our artists and users.”
The bill is in part based on recommendations from a government-appointed committee report from 2004 whose recommendations include signing two World Intellectual Property Organization treaties cracking down on the use of copyrighted material on the Internet and making it illegal to sell software that interferes with copy-protection coding.
The CRIA, which represents 95% of music produced and sold in Canada, is not entirely happy with the legislation, however, which leaves Internet service providers exempt from copyright liability when acting as “intermediaries.” When a rights holder tells an ISP that one of its subscribers is suspected of copyright infringement, the bill stipulates only that it will have to pass that information on to the subscriber.
Henderson noted that not making ISPs more responsible for piracy on their networks and failing to provide enough protection from hackers left “Canada behind in the digital realm and out of step with international norms.”
The government said it would continue to work on other copyright issues, including reproductions made by broadcasters.
In March 2004, a Canadian federal court ruled that the music industry could not force Internet service providers to identify individuals that it claimed were high-volume music file-swappers, and noted that sharing such files appeared to be within the bounds of copyright law in Canada.
In June 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Internet service providers were only “intermediaries,” and not responsible for paying royalties for downloaded music.
The last major amendments to the Copyright Act were in 1997, since which time Internet use has increased dramatically.