New federal legislation (Bill C-60, available here in PDF format) has been quietly unveiled in Ottawa. The early word is that it’s the nicest present that Canadian consumers have given to record labels, movie studios and other publishers in a long time.

Because while major copyright holders make out like bandits (arguably a lot like bandits), the folks who fork over the money for CDs and movies (a.k.a “half an hour of commercials, followed by 90 minutes of movie that will have you pining nostalgically for the commercials”) get the short end. So reports the invaluable Michael Geist.

[T]he recording industry is the big winner with an enormous basket of new rights and individual Canadians are the big losers as the bill does little to address their interests.

There is simply no denying that the lobbying efforts of the copyright owners, particularly the music industry, have paid off as they are the big winners in this bill. The bill focuses almost exclusively on creating new rights for this select group including a new making available right, legal protection for technological protection measures, legal protection for rights management information, the ability to control the first distribution of material in tangible form, new moral rights for performances, a reproduction right for performers, and an adjustment in the term of protection for sound recordings. The bill also includes a statutory notice and notice system that will virtually compel Internet service providers to notify subscribers of alleged copyright infringements and to retain relevant personal information for 6 months.

That’s a pretty big handover of rights from consumers to corporations. But it’s not like the federal Liberals are completely in thrall to big business, right? The bill must do something for consumers… right?

Anyone who has followed copyright reform history will not be surprised to learn that individual Canadians are the big losers today. Although the bill could have been worse (the U.S. version of the law is even more user-unfriendly) and there are some provisions that permit the use of digital works in an electronic and teaching environment (filled with all sorts of limitations) that is cold comfort to millions of Canadians who find themselves with a bill that does virtually nothing to address their concerns.

Wow. So many possible dimensions to carp on: corporations versus consumers, rigid copyright control versus the freedom to remix, and of course alignment with the harsh provisions of U.S. IP law (especially the DMCA) versus a kinder, gentler homegrown approach.

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