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Presentation to Senate Committee Considering Bill C-11: An Act to Amend the Copyright Act

Date: 
Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Presentation to the Senate Committee Considering Bill C11

June 26, 2012

Introduction

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians is a national organization made up primarily of blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted individuals. We advocate on a wide variety of issues at the local, provincial, and national level. To learn more about us, you can visit our website at blindcanadians.ca.

Preamble

I want to begin by recognizing some of the positive aspects of Bill C-11. As a consumer and a student, I'm glad to see the explicit recognition of user rights and the inclusion of education in fair dealing. As a blind consumer, I'm glad to see some clarification around the exportation of alternative format works and the explicit exemption from the prohibition against circumventing technological protection measures (TPMs). There are certainly praise-worthy aspects of this bill.

The AEBC, however, does have concerns. Because I don't have a lot of time, and because I recognize the urgent desire to pass this bill into law, I'm only going to focus on one of our concerns.

Recommendation 1: Technological Protection Measures

In Section 47 of Bill C-11, the proposed Section 41.16, sub section 2, provides an exemption to those offering services or manufacturing products for the purpose of circumventing TPMs in order to produce alternative formats, but only to the extent that these services or circumvention tools do not "unduly impair the technological protection measure". It is not clear what exactly it would mean not to "unduly impair" a TPM, and this ambiguity is the concern I want to talk about.

First, I want to point out that the unduly impair requirement does not apply to persons with perceptual disabilities, persons acting at their request, or non-profit organizations working for their benefit. Subsection 1 of Section 41.16, which deals with these groups, does not impose the unduly impair requirement.

What the unduly impair requirement does is limit the ability of individuals to offer the services and tools needed for people like me and for organizations like the CNIB to exercise the right to circumvent TPMs granted in Subsection 1 of Section 41.16.

Let me give you an example to make this more concrete. If I wanted to create a website that provided software and gave very clear instructions on how blind people using assistive technologies could go about removing the TPM from an e-book so that they could access it, and if the instructions and software I provide circumvent the TPM in a way that unduly impairs it, I would be breaking the law under Subsection 2 of Section 41.16. As an individual with a perceptual disability, I could use my instructions and software as often as I want without fear of punishment, but I cannot offer my services to other blind people or non-profit organizations.

All of this depends on what exactly it means to unduly impair a TPM. So what we are asking for is clarification on what precisely is meant by this phrase.

I believe that websites and tools like I've described, which enable blind people and organizations serving them to exercise their rights, should not be prohibited, and I'm concerned that the ambiguity of the phrase unduly impair means we just don't know if this legislation will prohibit them. We would like this phrase to be clarified, and we would like it clarified in such a way that those who would enable blind Canadians to exercise their rights are not prevented from doing so. In short, we're asking you to define the phrase "unduly impair" so as to remove the ambiguity from this proposed legislation.

Conclusion

I want to thank you for inviting the AEBC to testify and for listening to my presentation. I look forward to clarifying and elaborating in response to any questions you may have.

Presented by:

Marc Workman

Copyright Committee Chairperson

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

mworkman@blindcanadians.ca