The Confusing Canadian Copyright Law

Blank CDsToday I was engaged in a long discussion about the current state of copyright law in Canada. Never before have I seen such a confusing and almost specifically designed to be unclear, set of legislation.

After browsing all over the internet and trying to get a handle on it, this is what I’ve established

1. Per-to-per downloading is legal because of
2. The private copying levy, that we pay a “tax” on all blank media
3.  The law surrounding movies is even more vague
4. At least we don’t live in a copyright dictatorship like the U.S.

A lot of what I’ve discovered has come from Michael Geist’s blog.

I Was Screwed Over by iTunes

I am a big fan of the iTunes music store. I purchase a lot of my music there, individual songs and full albums. I’m willing to live with the lesser quality and high DRM for the convenience of desktop music purchasing. Up until now I have had no problems, that all changed last week.

Over a year ago I purchased a song, it never ended up on my computer and I totally forgot about it for quite some time. Last week I was browsing through my purchase history and saw this song. Since I did not have a copy of it on my system I emailed the service desk to ask the song be added to my download queue so I could download it again.

This is what I got back:

Thank you for purchasing music from the iTunes Store. I apologize, but I am unable to place this item back in your download queue.

We encourage you to back up your hard disk regularly. If a song needs to be replaced, you can restore your music and other data from the backup and avoid the need to purchase replacement copies of your collection of songs.

Well that didn’t really solve the problem. So I email them back telling them that this was unacceptable. Since I had purchased the song I wanted a copy of it. I thought I had purchased the rights to the song not just one copy and therefore saw no problem with a new copy. And because of their DRM, it would be almost impossible for me to violate the copyright law.

Another reply:

“I’m afraid that there may be some confusion. When you purchase a file from the iTunes Store, you are purchasing a specific copy. This is like purchasing a CD. When you do so, you own that particular CD rather than all copies of the album.

While I can appreciate your frustration, a new copy will not be provided. I understand that you have seen a new or modified version of the file on the iTunes Store. You are welcome to purchase this item but the payment for a previous copy of the item cannot be applied toward the purchase.”

I was shocked to say the least, I was not aware at all that I only had rights to one copy. Their ridiculous false analogy about CD sales aside, there seemed to be nothing I could do. Checking the user agreement though reveals this gem “Once a Product is purchased or rented (as applicable) and you receive the Product, it is your responsibility not to lose, destroy, or damage the Product, and Apple shall be without liability to you in the event of any loss, destruction, or damage”

I knew that there was strict DRM on all Apple media purchases I didn’t know that it went this far though. But what do I do now? Amazon’s music store is not available in Canada yet and eMusic only has a limited stock, most of it independent labels. It looks like I’m either back to brick and mortar or I resign my self to poor service and high DRM.

Another issue though. As far as I was aware when I purchase a CD, at least in Canada, I own any copies of that album. I can rip it to my computer and I own the mp3s. I can burn another audio copy and I own that. I know this is not what the RIAA in the U.S. wants but as long as Digital Millennium Copyright Act style laws stay out of Canada I can still do that here.

More then ever now I’ll be supporting Michael Giest on his crusade to protect Canadian consumers from unfair copyright laws. I’d urge everyone else to do the same.